I recently upgraded the Linux workstation that I use at work, and like every Linux upgrade I have ever gone through in the past fifteen years, it’s been as painful as ever.
Well, actually I’m not really talking about the upgrade itself, which was fairly smooth, but just the inevitable thought that precedes booting the new machine (“Let’s see how much Linux has improved in the past two years”) invariably followed by “Well, it still sucks”.
First of all, notice that I’m carefully not disclosing what distribution I’m using, because I know from experience that such rant is always followed by swarms of comments saying “You should have used distribution X, you idiot!”. So there, I hope at least that I’ll be spared this outpouring.
So what am I unhappy about, exactly?
First of all, the very basics. While I lost faith in the Linux user interface a long time ago, I still believe it’s a tremendous operating system for server operations, but from a user perspective, it’s just not there. I’m currently making a full build as I’m writing this, and my 3 Gb multi-core chokes and freezes now and then, sometimes causing the cursor to pause or the menus to not appear for sometimes an entire second.
Isn’t Linux supposed to be the king of time slicing, hyperthreading and process allocations? How come I can barely know that a compilation is occurring when I’m using my XP desktop? Oh and for that matter, my Mac Book Pro is barely better than Linux in that area.
Application installation is still a joke on Linux.
Whether you have to go through pages of manual for rpm, alien or dpkg, the end result is that most of your installations end abruptly and quietly with barely any indication of whether they succeeded or failed. Of course, trying to figure out when you need to use sudo or not is another exercise left to the reader, and some of these installations still leave program files created with the wrong owner. Needless to say such packages will fail in very mysterious ways.
A few days after the upgrade, I’m still not able to play the CD in my tray. Right now, I just press the play button and nothing happens. Needless to say I already gave up on playing mp3’s, much less ripping them (I’ll happily go back to iTunes or Windows Media Player for that).
Just for the fun of it, I tried to Linuxify myself for a few hours and try some highly recommended (and critically acclaimed) Linux programs for regular operations, such as Konqueror and XMMS.
Did you actually see what these look like? Here is a teaser:
Yup, that’s it. Linux’ award winning, top-of-the-line, even-better-than-winamp MP3 player. Good luck finding the menus (there are none, why do they feel the need to copy Windows Media Player’s idiocy?). Oh, and the best? It doesn’t seem to support play lists. I can play a File or a Directory, but no play list. Lovely.
On the desktop side, the fonts are as horrendous as they ever were, opaque window moving still leaves a conspicuous trace on the screen as you move your window around (what year is this, 1992?) and window switching with ALT-TAB is a sad joke compared to its beautiful Vista counterpart (and also Witch on Mac OS, because I still think the defaut Mac OS window switching is pretty bad, although it’s much better than Linux’).
Oh, and just as I was about to post this, I noticed that my Firefox was pinning the CPU at 100% and taking up 400 megs of heap space. Granted, it’s not really Linux’ fault, but it’s certainly another deterrent to add to the long list of reasons why Linux is not for you.