Monday, August 6, 2012

That Good Old Linux FUD

Who doesn't love a good Monday morning rant?

I caught this article on the news feed of my favorite Linux news site this morning and I must say it upsets me a lot. The too long/didn't read version of this guy's article is that Android is "usable" for most users, while he finds desktop Linux lacking in the usability department. He cites a number of reasons why the distribution he selected (Fedora) isn't "usable" compared to Android. Honestly all of them are your normal anti-desktop Linux FUD and I am tired of it.

Oh man - all your hardware doesn't work with the distribution you are using, but your Android device works great? Let me guess - you bought a device with Android preinstalled. Your "Linux computer" on the other hand you installed yourself. You also didn't research the hardware. You just expected Linux to work with every piece of hardware that exists. I'm not sure who told you Linux worked with 100% of hardware, but guess what? They lied. Linux works with a great deal of hardware, but not all of it. If you bought your own copy of Windows or OSX and tried to install it on non-supported hardware you better believe their parent companies would tell you to get supported hardware. Why are you treating Linux differently?

Next he goes onto to complain about the difficulties you have to go through when setting up a Linux PC.

Oh man - you downloaded an operating system that has free software principles and you expected it to utilize closed source tools by default? This surprises you? In under an hour on distrowatch you can easily find a distribution that comes with such tools by default. Instead this guy choose the wrong tool for the job he wanted to do and then opted to complain when it didn't work properly.

Next he moves on to complaining about bugs in the operating system.

Oh man - the giant piece of complex software (that you got for free mind you) isn't perfect? Not only that, but instead of having to pay of updates like some operating systems these bugs can often be resolved automatically via the package manager after reporting them? Windows and OSX aren't bug free either. Why are you expecting Linux to be?

Finally he complains about the release cycle of the distribution he is using.

Oh man - you selected a distribution with a six month release cycle, but you don't like updating/reinstalling every six months? I am simply going to make a distrowatch reference again here. There are easily dozens of active projects that this won't happen with. Sadly, you can only lead a horse to water, you can't make it drink.

In closing today I would like to share one last thought of my own regarding desktop Linux. We have not yet gotten to a software world where everyone is ready to install and configure their own operating system. Expecting this to be true is a folly. I would be willing to bet that almost every user that has issues installing Linux (on Linux friendly hardware) would also have issues installing Windows or OSX.

Installing an operating system requires a user to make at least some technical decisions - it is the nature of the beast. Expecting desktop Linux to transcend this is just foolish.

Finally - no matter how good a given piece of software is you can never account for all the carbon based issues that are bound to occur. You know what they say - every time you make something idiot proof they go and make a better idiot!

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. The guy lost me at "Since I got my first PC 4 years ago".

    Maybe I'm an elitist old geezer, but how old is this guy? My 11-year old has had his own computer longer than that, and he's on his 4th or 5th distro.

  2. Has this guy ever tried to install windows on a virgin computer? Likely never!
    People who complain about the difficulty of installing (and using) linux are out of their mind.
    Three years ago I bought a new Dell computer. Of course I had windows 7 PREinstalled on it! The first thing I did was to reformat and install a linux system.
    Like you I prefer a LTS distribution.
    I have been using linux off and on for quite some times, but it became my main "home" system since 2007 (having to dual booted win XP at work...).
    Recently, for some stupid reason (iTunes!) I try to reinstall windows 7 from scratch on my Dell, after changing the hard drive (preciously keeping the former drive with linux as a life buoy). Let me tell you that after spending hours (honest I am not lying) I had to gave up. It became a nightmare!
    However linux and virtual computing came to the rescue.
    To conclude: anybody can install linux in half an hour, but installing windows afresh really is a major pain in the lower back!
    Never again...

    1. Agreed. I can do a full install of Ubuntu including the naughty non-free bit in about 30 - 45 min depending on the computer. And then maybe another 30 mins or so to tweek it and install the programs I want. All told maybe an hour and a half tops to set up a computer to my liking. With Windows you better have either downloaded drivers ahead of time or kept the stack of discs that came with your computer, because a lot of things aren't going to function beyond a basic level if at all without those drivers. After that you better jump online and download all the programs you need that don't come with Windows. Then last but not least there's tweaking the OS. All in all it can easily take 2 to 3 times longer to setup a Windows install.

    2. lolwut? I'm sorry, but this is straight FUD. Windows 7 takes about 15-20 minutes to install to desktop. It consists of 3 or 4 clicks (Install Now, Custom, Drive selection) and then putting in information such as user name and password.

      Windows Update has come a long way and about 90-95% of drivers (mileage may vary due to hardware configs) can be installed from it. I just reinstalled Windows 7 recently after trying out 8 RP. In less than 30 minutes, I had a fully working system and another 30 minutes to install my programs and I was done.

      The claims that Windows is still a PITA to install and setup are nothing more than FUD, unless you do not know what you are doing, and even then, it's easy.

      Two weeks ago, I talked someone through an install via IM. Someone who, before I helped them did not know what "upload" and "download" meant or what a "hard drive" was.

      I am all for accurate criticisms of Windows, I have many (I use Windows 7, Windows Server, several Linux distros and Mac). But, please, let them be accurate. The days of driver hell after a Windows install is long gone. Don't act like it's still there.

    3. What is true however Lee is that a good deal of people still use and install WinXP daily - meaning it is still a giant pain to setup/configure.

    4. Ah, if we're discussing XP, I will agree. I was referencing the Windows 7 install.

    5. It is absolutely still a PITA to install Windows 7. The actual installation process isn't that bad... BUT, once you go to update the system, it's three rounds of update some bits for an hour, then update the bits you just updated...

      One more update and... wait, this update is too good to be updated with the other updates...

      and one more round of updating the updates...

      And you certainly can't install Reader, Flash and Java at the same time because the universe might explode... especially if you try to install them when the updates are running.

      And then... I have to find and install by touch-pad driver so my laptop doesn't automatically click wherever I leave my cursor...

      Not to mention the find your favorite programs, download the exe or msi, and then double-click, click, click, checkbox, click, click, click, and then double-click the next one, click, click ...

      With Linux, one round of updates, sudo apt-get install my-favorite-program-list-ALL-at-the-same-time... and I'm ready to roll.

    6. I'm sure I forgot at least three reboots in there...

    7. I've done fresh installs of XP thu 8 and about a dozen different Debian and Fedora derived distros and in my experience Linux is MUCH easier to setup especially on laptops with their trackpads and special function buttons. In Windows you need special drivers for them. Generally in Linux, barring some video and wireless drivers everything works out of the box.

    8. If Microsoft included the drivers, they would be accused of being a monopoly and including bloat. But, when Linux has everything included, it's a feature.

      It's a joke. Anyone who took that seriously, should calm down. At the same time, it's more tongue-in-cheek because it does happen. MS gets accused of bloat and monopoly whenever they try to include anything.

      As for the install issue, this is an excellent example of "your mileage may vary." For me, and everyone install I have ever dealt with (including the aforementioned "non-techie" that I helped talk through an install), it went great. For others, it is not the case.

      The same holds true for Linux. For some people, it just works and there is no issue. However, for others, it can be a nightmare and take a long time to finish getting squared away, if it ever finishes.

      There is no generic "better" operating system. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. For some one is better than the other. For others, it is another.

      But, to categorically state that Windows 7 is a pain to install is false. Some people may run into problems, others do not. I did not go through the "reboot hell" that was stated before. Others I know did not either. That lends evidence to the fact that, for many (if not most), the install is very smooth and easy.

      Windows 7 != older versions. Things have gotten better. Microsoft has tightened things down.

      I just don't like broad statements and I think they do nothing but hurt Linux and Open Source in the end (push strengthens without slamming others). I know that I usually stay away from Linux forums because of the negative attitude. I use Linux daily and have been since the late 90's. Talk up Linux's good points, ignore Windows negatives.

  3. Installing Linux is usually so much easier than Windows and so is configuring it.

  4. I have found that drivers can be a big issue in Linux with some hardware. Many companies don't have Linux drivers, yet they will have Windows drivers. In 90% of my installs Linux has all the drivers, which is awesome. For me it was the printer. Printer drivers for Linux have been pretty poor, that is why I bought a printer that I knew would work good for Linux.

    Finally you really need to have a Nvidia card if you want to play games on Linux, the drivers for AMD and other video cards are really poor.

    So as much as I love Linux, Windows 7 is easier to install on a new computer and I have had to do it many times.

    I think things are changing for Linux as a desktop and we will see a lot more driver support in the next 3 years, with Valve moving over, support for Linux in Unity and a number of other developments.

    Windows really blew it for the desktop with Win8 and I expect Linux to make strides past Windows as it did with Vista.

    1. I remember a time when it was "Wow! I found a video card that actually works with X11" or "Holy cow, I have sound, and it only took 20 hours of fiddling with ALSA settings!".

      Nowadays the issue is more often "I get 20 fewer FPS in someProprietaryShooterGame on Linux under Wine than I do in Windows."

      Point being, hardware not working with Linux has gone from the rule to the exception over the last decade or so. We've got it good, and it's only going to get better.

  5. I installed Linux for a friends son on an old celeron 1GB laptop yesterday, in 20 minutes. It's ready to return to him, with all his hardware working.

    Windows on the same machine last time took 4.5 hours before everything was in place.

    Oh, and @ Mike Walters - not to criticise, but how long since you used an AMD gfx card on Linux? Mine works just fine with games here. I'd say NV and AMD gfx drivers are mature enough for the majority of people.

  6. Jeff-Like you it really upsets me when some one says that Linux is unusable as a desktop and throws rock at a particular version of Linux. If one does not do what I expect it should do for me I just move on. There's always a version out there that will work. Plus as you say, doing research helps.
    I can easily do a fresh install with updating, adding my needed ATI/Radeon graphics drivers, and all the packages I need for my own device, so to speak inside of an hour. The last time I did this with Windows, and it has been several years I might add, it took forever in a day.
    Linux is the future and will always be better than Windows hands down.
    Oh, by the way, great job on your latest version of Bodhi. Am using it as my primary since I got it working. I did not complain it did not work as I though it should. I asked for help on your Forum and did my research.
    I just wish every one would do so before flapping away with the anti Linux desktop FUD.

    1. That's crap, people have not the time to test hundreds of distros to find a working one. Only to find out then that their wanted software is not available for this distro ... the stupid fragmented distro concept drives the end-users away :(

  7. Preinstallation is key. When that happens, life will get so much easier.

    It's true that installing a Linux distribution is no big deal, just that most people simply want to open the box and have it work.

    1. I would have to agree with this. Companies such as System76 are doing this. I just wish Asus would actually jump into this bandwagon.

    2. pre-installation is NOT the ultimate answer, it's also not the reason why linux have still only 1% user base. (too often given as sole reason)

      Proof? The early netbook market started with pre-installed linux netbooks, but people rejected this netbooks, return rate was significant higher then with the XP netbooks ( So, missing pre-installtion is no the main reason why user vote by feets for windows and Mac.

    3. The reason there was such a high linux-netbook return rate is because most of the customers where lied to. Being told the operating system on it was "like windows".

      Plus almost everyone one of those netbooks came with a crippled version of Linux. Beyond that Linux has come a long way on the desktop in the last two years.

    4. @jeff: You are not negating my point, that missing pre-installation is NOT a criticial limitation for adoption to linux (in opposite to coomon believe).

      Also, what means that linux is not "like windows"? Not at least as good as windows? Which would be surprising as it is typically promoted as far superior, free, cheap, virus free, with all needed applications, with choice, and great GUIs etc. Then also a "crippled" linux versions should always beat XP easily left handed, or not???

    5. I'm going to stop feeding the troll here.

    6. @Jeff: But you are very fast in responding, impressive! ;) Beside, thank you for your blog, I read it for years now with great pleasure, e.g. your article about Autopackage was a eye opener to me. (Also, what happend to autopackage?)
      But what I really dislike is (and what motivated my "trollish" comment) is ignorance against real, existing problems... what the linux desktop suffer now, most eloquent description was given by Ingo Molnar ( "Technology: What ails the Linux desktop? The basic failure of the free Linux desktop is that it's, perversely, not free enough. [...] The desktop Linux suckage we are seeing today - on basically all the major Linux distributions - are the final symptoms of mistakes made 10-20 years ago - the death cries of a platform. Desktop Linux distributions are trying to "own" 20 thousand application packages consisting of over a billion lines of code and have created parallel, mostly closed ecosystems around them. The typical update latency for an app is weeks for security fixes (sometimes months) and months (sometimes years) for major features. They are centrally planned, hierarchical organizations instead of distributed, democratic free societies."

  8. i have read the original article and to some extend, i think that author makes sense because thats what i have been through. the issue of non free formats is a lot of pain, i really dont know about some geeky configurations he is talking about, i had never been through them yet i an active user for more than four years. for some of you who dont realise, let me tell you one thing, internet is one hard to find luxury in africa, maybe in europe and north america it aint like that but we have a problem here, im posting this from my cellphone, samsung e250 for that matter, not a smart phone. but it all boils down to common sense, if a distro doesnt fit you, hop on, dont judge it by using fedora which is not made for newbies. and again, dont you dare compare mobile operating systems with desktop linux, let alone giving unrealistic statistics. slowly but surely, linux is rising on the desktop. long live linux.

  9. Unfortunately the article writer Dennis Mbuvi did not allow non-Facebook subscribers to post a comment, as I found various errors in his story.

    One basic fallacy of his argument is based on his attempts to update a "standard" Fedora for desktop PC use comparable with Windows XP/7, but made no mention of nor did he consider or try LinuxMint, PCLinuxOS, Zorix or any other user friendly Linux distribution that has "proven" unquestionably to be just as or more easy, more suitable and comprehensible to use than Windows.

    He also is ignorant or dismissive of "fact" that in many USA and international spheres, Linux is standard (and quite satisfactory) on the desktop, e.g. Cities of Munich, Germany, Vienna, Austria, many other European jurisdictions and several divisions of the Brazilian Government.

    How much proof is that?

    1. About zero. Just think a little bit more and you will see why.

    2. vienna? get your facts right, the converted back to windows:

  10. Right.....Yet, whenever I didn't feel like messing around drying to find windows drivers for something. I tried the o'l lets put it in Ubuntu to see if it works...let me tell's true "plug n play" the way it should be. Even Microsoft's xbox 360 controller doesn't operate very well out of the box. (you have to be connected to the internet for it to download drivers) on ubuntu (not connected) just plug n play...along with various USB wireless adapters, pci adapters, and much more..even things that aren't really ment to be used on the computer that are from game systems like rock bands mic. Just work. It was as hard as putting in a USB drive...

  11. I have been using Ubuntu for three years now, and I just begun using Bodhi Linux 2.0.1 for the last week. Saying that, Bodhi Linux has been amazing for me. I never installed a single driver and had no problems with installing Trelby ( on my computer. I love the speed and stability of linux, never will I use Windows as my own laptop again.

  12. Haha ahh man you schooled that guy! way to go Jeff.

  13. Yes good post Jeff. I think the mistake the guy made was to choose Fedora. Not that I have any issues with Fedora because it is a great distribution and one of the standard bearers.

    Pretty much any *buntu would have given what he required straight away. OpenSuse, Mageia, CentOS, PCLinuxOS, Zorin would have given him what he wanted straight out of the box.

    Unfortunately he chose the one distribution that requires you to install codecs and proprietary software yourself.

    Interestingly I'm not sure Windows comes with Flash as standard. I think you have to install it yourself so why have a go at Fedora?

    People write what they know from the knowledge they have gained and the experiences they have had. It is up to each of us and anyone else who reads articles like this to make an opinion as to the credibility of the piece.

  14. I had complains with sandy bridge processors with discrete graphics cards, because I could not install or use propitiatory ati drivers. Recently however, most people who has sandy bridge with ati cards are successful to install ati drivers and easily switch them using catalyst control center. Every new Linux kernel is going to make switching easier and easier (without having to logout). Hardware problems? I had sound issues when I used to use Fedora 3. Even then if I used mandrake I would have no such problems, because my hp computer was Linux certified, even though it came with windows xp. Wireless issue in a very old dell laptop (dell latitude) in ubuntu 11.10. I solved it using everyone's tested script from ubuntuforums. I use Linux, I have made many co-workers switch to Linux (because they could see the easiness and availability of necessary tools). In all the cases where people around me installed Linux, they did it themselves.

    I even have friends who can't give up their favorite tool (that does not work in Linux), for which they try to install them in wine without success (the software needs much more permission than that), but they can't even give up Linux, because it is even a bigger sacrifice.

  15. I have a fujistu siemens esprimo e5600 sis761,-
    works flawlessly in linux mint 13- takes less than half an hour to install on the other hand tried win7 and after three attempts and wasting more than 3 hours gave up.
    used to use xp on my previous comp and when that gave up had to use linux becuase windows wouldnt instal on this system , now have been using linux ever since , no bsod , no virus

  16. In my experience, hardware is more often detected and correctly installed on GNU/Linux than on Windows.
    In Windows you must often add vendor drivers if these are not preinstalled.

    The only thing lacking is weird (read: cheap) gadgets people buy on holiday, like no-name mp3 players etc, as well as 3D acceleration on some video cards.

  17. I'm always pretty amazed by people who have these experiences as I just never have had them. I've been running Linux on my main workstation for years, with little to no issues, regardless of what I might install. The amount of issues I've had with any 'nix distribution has been on par or the same as that on my Windows laptop. This leads me to believe that I am either exceptionally lucky. I do work on an IT helpdesk for a living so that may lead me to be a bit more prepared for troubleshooting, but I really can't say that I've ever really had a major issue. My canon printers have always just worked, even if they weren't the exact same printer name(this is a common problem on Windows too), my hardware has always just worked in a plug and play fashion and any software I've needed has been supported or worked through Linux, save for some development(Visual Studio) or school related work. The experience with Android for me has pretty much been the same. I think it all comes down to doing your research before you buy. I bought an android tablet for $100 and the wifi is absolute garbage, also it doesn't support WPA2 Enterprise, is this the devices fault? No, it was a $100 touch screen tablet that fits in the palm of my hand. I could fly a space shuttle with the darned thing for crying out loud. Sometimes I don't think the computer is the issue, rather it's our expectations we have of the devices we buy and use.

  18. Well said indeed. Plus the fact he chose a disto like Fedora to start with isn't a good sign.. Fedora has became "easier" to use but it's far from "usable" when it's first installed. It's a tweakers dream. I think if he had tried one of the Ubuntu releases or the plethora of distros based on it (Linux Mint would have been a great choice) he wouldn't of had so many complaints..

    Ahh well FUD is always there, just wish people would actually take some time to do research before the go complaining.

    Anyways great article!

  19. I have an easier time installing and configuring Arch than I do Windows.

  20. "Finally he complains about the release cycle of the distribution he is using.

    Oh man - you selected a distribution with a six month release cycle, but you don't like updating/reinstalling every six months? I am simply going to make a distrowatch reference again here. There are easily dozens of active projects that this won't happen with. Sadly, you can only lead a horse to water, you can't make it drink."

    He is spot on the problem! Selecting another distro is NOT the solution, only another bad compromise. This continuous arising complaints stem from the the ugly compromises which happens by baking tight together OS+apps=distro. Glueing together what should be strict separated (to have significant different upgrade cycles) is elementary wrong.

    Separwting platform from Apps (like all sucessful OSs (Mac, Win, Iphone etc) would solve this "bug":

    Ah, here another complaint one this mis-design, Ingo Molnar:

    And here some classic already, worth reading, Mozilla developer b. smedberg (2006):

  21. I have used Puppy Linux which I like due to my long-time mission to rescue and re-use old hardware. I also like Linux Mint, Bodhi 2.0.x on not-so-old hardware.

    I am at the point where the choice of Windows XP, the only useful Windows that will work on the old stuff I save, is an exercise in mental driver meltdown.

    Can't use Windows 7 on a Pentium III slower than 1Ghz. And as equipment ages, finding support on the maker's sites is slimmer pickings.

    With the above mentioned distros, especially Puppy, I just install and get a browser and add a few bits, one hour tops, and I have a superb web surfing experience, music and movie playback, AbiWord's just fine and I can D/L Libre Office. Digital Camera transfer for my Ebay sales is easy.

    For what I do, there are simply no complaints. And a LOT of joy.

    The flame-wars and FUD won't die out, but I know what my experiences do for my use and love of Linux.

  22. Here are my complaints with Linux. I say this from the perspective of a Linux/Solaris admin, as most of my Linux knowledge is server command line related not desktop. I run Cent on my Dell Desktop but I primarly use a macbook pro.

    1) I think Linux on the desktop is close, but I don't think it's there yet. The fast moving distros which are marketed for desktop (fedora, Ubuntu, etc) are usually the distros with the most bugs. On my workstation running a yum update caused my 1900x1200 screen to only be detected as 1024x768. I view things like this as being unacceptable. If I installed Distro A and my sound card doesn't work, fine its unsupported I get it. But the regressions are a real problem to the point you never want to update anything. I think LTS (Cent, Ubuntu LTS) should really be the only options for people if they don't want to constantly be fighting things like this.

    2) Laptop support sucks. This has been my experience. I have a laptop with components A,B,C. Distro1 A and B work out of the box. Distro2 A and C works, and Distro3 B and C works. The main problem is the fucked up hardware the most laptops use and I realize that but I find it rare where everything just works with out doing some fiddling.

    When I was younger I loved to tinker with things. Trying to figure out why my display is 1024x768. But as I've gotten older I find I don't have time to deal with that shit, I just want the thing to work when I need it to. I honestly think thats why Macbooks have come to dominate in the dev communities and tech conferences. Less messing, more working.

  23. I just moved my netbook to ubutnu precise and now I receive rando x-server crashes sending me back to the login screen. I love linux and will definitely try to fix the problem, but if that happens to someone just trying it out for the first time I could see how it would turn them off....

  24. I've been using Linux in one form or another since 1997. By 1998, I kept at least 1 system running Linux, usually in a server configuration, running Apache & Postfix.

    I stopped using Fedora altogether after the FC4 release, although I have deployed 3 CentOS servers recently at work, which are now in production as the core of our state-employee's insurance system (each server has 24 cores and 32GB ram, and 1 of the 3 servers also uses FiberChannel SAN storage for housing PostgreSQL's databases as well as loose-file-storage for forms that are either created by or referenced by the users of the systems.

    At home, it's mostly Linux. I have 3 workstations currently that are running Ubuntu exclusively, and 2 more that run in a dual-boot (Win7ULT + Ubuntu-12.04.1-LTS) configurations. While I really loved Gnome 2.32, and I *like* the 'Mate-Desktop', I've actually grown kind of attached to Unity Desktop now because I really like the default keyboard shortcuts and the smoothness in navigation from the desktop. When Ubuntu 11.04 released, I was very skeptical about Unity. But by 11.10, it was becoming very usable. By the release of 12.04, I had grown to like it. I also like Bodhi, though I'm finding problems in my use of it that will require research before I reload the USB stick I keep it installed to, for use with my Acer Iconia Tab W500... which happens to be the system I do all of my testing and development of USB based distros made for workstation-like-use.

    Linux has been ready for desktop use for several years now... more years than the OP that Jeff refers to has used Linux.

    Fedora is not made for anyone other than developers that want creds for working on something that ends up a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and possibly adopted by others. Personally, I don't care for RPM based distros because I don't like the package management tools that most RPM distros provide. Even after extensive research, most of the package management tools I found were poor by comparison to synaptic, or even 'apt-get' alone. And yes... while Canonical packages in the Ubuntu Software Manager... and it's pretty... I still prefer function over beauty, so I install synaptic and gdebi on all Ubuntu systems as part of my initial customization (as well as CentrifyDC to simplify the hell out of adding and managing Linux systems in an Active Directory enabled environment, with full single-sign-on support across all of my platforms).

    One last thing...

    The percentages of Linux users that were quoted in the original article are false data, though it's not the fault of the OP. He's going by Gartner's stats, or some other so-called statistics authority. The problem with doing that is that those statistics only reflect the *reported installations*, which any long term Linux user or sysadmin knows is garbage data. Out of the countless numbers of Linux systems I've cranked out alone, I could shift the demographic by atleast a 10th of a percentage point, but there's no centralized way to actually track usage... and many users/sysadmins want to keep it that way. For instance, think of all the thin installations that are doing nothing more than running TOR+privoxy+tor-arm in a network-server configuration to work as a network-wide anonymizer-proxy (I've built 3 of these in the past few months). No one wants those systems tracked, atleast no one outside those that would want to track them. Not all Linux use is public, and a lot of it is very covert.