Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Linux desktop still dissapoints

I used to use Linux as my main OS from 1995 to 1999. Back then, Windows was an unstable piece of garbage, and I liked Linux. In Linux I faced relatively few problems, and it was possible to solve those and have a good stable system.

Windows became good starting with Windows 2000. It was stable, it ran software that had no Linux equivalents, and it had a decently designed GUI. Windows continued to get better, and I'm now very happy with Windows 7.

Starting about a year ago, I tried out various Linux distributions including Mint 10, Mint Debian Edition, Debian Testing, Xubuntu and Ubuntu. Overall, I'm disappointed. The Linux desktop still can't compete with Windows.

I used to think that free software had great potential because the ability to reuse components and code makes software development much more efficient. Instead, I see countless alternatives for the same thing, and re-implementations which replace good software with works in progress. As a result, the Linux desktop doesn't improve very much and new problems appear constantly.

The best current example is Gnome. Version 2 was inferior to Windows in some ways, but it was good enough and usable. Then, it was dramatically changed, stripping out many features, and even removing the ability to use other software such as XScreenSaver and Compiz. Some parts of the Gnome 3 user experience are an improvement, but overall it is not an improvement because of what was removed. This resulted in Gnome forks, and maybe also Unity.

Here's a list of some other things I encountered in Linux:
  • Linux Mint is not upgradeable, or maybe it's upgradeable but a clean install is highly recommended
  • Linux Mint Debian Edition has been holding back updates for months, despite claiming to offer a "rolling distribution based on Debian Testing".
  • Writes to slow USB devices hang other file system accesses
  • Gnome 3 won't automount devices in Debian Wheezy
  • The suspend button suddenly stopped working in Xubuntu
  • Compiz crashes a few times at startup
  • Thunar won't warn when copying files into a destination with insufficient space
  • Thunar shows errors when unmounting removable devices
  • Debian Wheezy comes with ugly default configurations and horrible font rendering
  • The XScreenSaver screen unlock dialog locks up, requiring a kill -9 from another console. The dialog is also ugly and primitive.
  • Sometimes XScreenSaver locks the screen even when told not to
  • The Xfce applications menu is worse than Windows 95. It doesn't have editing functionality, and it silently ignores *.desktop files that are accepted by other parts of the system.
  • In Debian and Ubuntu, Audacious comes without the ffaudio plugin, so it doesn't support APE and some other formats.
  • Audacious changed the plugin API, so it can't use plugins written for an old version
  • Compiling things is a pain because of all the dependencies. For example, Audacious 3.2 requires very recent versions of libavcodec and huge numbers of other stuff
  • Several distributions choose and integrate Empathy as the IM client, even though it lacks important features.
  • Several distributions won't automatically disable the nouveau driver when installing the Nvidia driver, leading to a lockup
  • The Xfce desktop icons aren't managed by the file manager, leading to all sorts of inconsistencies
  • mintMenu has various bugs and bad design choices which make it harder to use
  • The Gnome 3 time setting dialog won't report time sync problems
  • Xfce doesn't seem to offer a way to change default PulseAudio devices
  • Many less popular packages are old or broken
  • Many things don't work in OpenJDK, which is the default, and Oracle Java locks up Firefox when Adblock Plus is enabled.
  • Shutdown and restart doesn't work from the Xubuntu login screen
  • Distributions may silently insert customizations into my Firefox profile even if I copy the profile from Windows.
  • Improper display of some partially transparent images in Firefox
  • Package setups which make it hard to uninstall applications which were installed by default
  • Default application setting screens which don't work
  • Ability to customize the same thing separately in two different places, resulting in a conflict
  • Limited drag and drop support and context menu support
  • Debian still prompts in the middle of the install process
  • A bunch of programs can automatically change desktop backgrounds, but none are as nice as what's built into Windows and OS X
  • Trash can't be disabled on a device
  • Mysterious Samba failures
  • The r8169 driver is broken in Linux Mint Debian Edition, requiring a manual install of the r8168 driver from Realtek, with some Makefile editing
  • In every distribution I tried, the fonts installed by default make many websites look terrible
  • Gnash is installed by default, even though it doesn't work very well and Flash is is used in many places on the web
  • In Thunar, the there's a very subtle difference in appearance between mounted and unmounted volumes. Unmounted volumes even have the eject icon.
  • When unmounting, Xfce notifications that data still needs to be written sometimes remain on the screen.
  • Ubuntu Software Centre shows some applications twice
  • I can't drag things to the Xfce Quicklauncher. Also, it crashes.
  • Xfce theming is not coordinated, so for example some themes make tray icons almost dissapear.
  • Samba sometimes fails to see or talk to shares which work from Windows. It even had problems talking to an older version of Samba.
  • KDE can't properly set GTK themes. They can be set manually, but KDE will overwrite the configuration file. GTK apps look very ugly in KDE without an appropriate theme.
  • Font kerning is sometimes crazy. For example, Tr can be too close together.
  • Font hinting is bad. Full hinting looks ugly in some popular fonts.
  • The KDE bouncing icon animation sometimes continues for far too long
  • I told Ark to extract to an smb:// path and it instead extracted elsewhere
  • Synaptic doesn't allow custom filters to be removed
  • Aptitude concludes a package conflicts with itself because it provides something it conflicts with. As a result, Aptitude wants to uninstall most things.
  • fsck.vfat is "unable to create unique name" unless certain options are given, and it may not fix all problems on the first run.

1 comment:

Robert McBrian said...

Linux has proven to be superior in many regards compared to Windows. True, not everything functions "out of the box," however, nothing works out of the box in Windows. Drivers must be manually installed, scripts run to accomplish tasks, programs installed to do basic functions, etc... The difference is that hardware manufacturers and software developers SUPPORT Windows, and create these files and drivers to work 98% flawlessly. The same issues you encounter in Linux are simply taken care of with run-time code and exec scripts created by the manufacturers. Because Linux is not supported by PAID programmers, you have to find fixes and tweaks yourself.

Overall, your list of camplaints is excessively overzealous, and only demonstrates an unwillingness to delve in to the Linux system more. That's fine as that is the purpose of choice. I converted to Linux in 2006 from Windows and never looked back. I do use the Windows format in other locations, and due to my time with Linux now, I find it cumbersome, slow, and overly "bloated." That's my choice. In no way would I describe Windows as a superior platform, especially when dealing with server issues and batch file operations. When I used Windows, I knew nothing about command line or programming. Now, because of the nature of Linux, I know a little, and my power resources are a hundred fold what I used in GUI Windows. True, there is a command line option, but in my opinion, and the opinion of just about any Power User out there, no comparison.