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Why linux still isn't up to the job


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Though I'd right a brief article on my experience with playing around with linux recently.

I'm a fairly technical person, have a background in C/C++ programming, network support, and IT support. The last time I tried linux was approximately 5 years ago, and it wasnt very good back then, however I could see the appeal to "hackers", back then however, trying to get the latest hardware to function was next to impossible, huge lack of drivers. So since 5 years have passed and have been using XP since it was released, I thought "Let's see how Linux is getting on? I keep seeing the odd article around the web about how it's ready or almost ready for the desktop - so, let's give it a go".

So after a couple days of research I picked a distribution, and no, i'm not going to name names, because overall I think it is a very good distribution, and the problems discussed in this article I believe to be irrelivant to who packaged it all up. Suffice to say it was one that had a LiveCD so I could test it out first.

Asside from that I picked a boot manager and a partition utility to allow me to dual boot and resize my windows partition.

So first things first, I pop the livecd in the drive, and it boots up almost to the point of starting Xwindows, however it just sits there doing nothing apparently on a black text screen whilst it says it's trying to probe my usb devices. Ok that's not a great first impression, waited about 30 minutes on that screen before rebooting it and unplugging my usb devices, that worked! So I was in, and apart from that problem, it did kinda work as you'd expect running off a CD, low res, but a few things worked like sound support etc.

The interface is nice now with KDE 3.4.1, so I was quite impressed with that. So decided to install and give it a proper try.

Installing is definately improved from an interface perspective, partitions, formats, detects where i'd want to install, however after that the installer wanted to format my swap partition, but again that didnt work, and just hung there, however this time, it caused linux to crash. Another reboot down the line, I turned off the format swap partition option, and it installed - YAY!

Rebooting, and it all seemed fine, went straight into KDE, no USB problem this time, so perhaps was just a livecd problem. Looking through the boot log, all my hardware looks like it was picked up during boot time - I'm impressed so far!

Now for an OS out of the box, it's great, things like openoffice is a very nice application, the other apps are good too, so you can see why maybe for someone who isn't going to play around much with it, it's all fine, you get a nice looking interface, and some office apps, a few games, and some other things which was all nice.

Now, say you're a bit more of an advanced (windows) user, and you'd like the latest drivers to make everything run as fast as possible, perhaps for gaming, multimedia, or other such things, this is where it's still falling down.

Firstly my onboard sound didnt work out of the box, fair enough I thought it rarely does in windows either. However this is where windows and linux still differ, far too much imho, whereas in windows you'd put in a CD, or go to the website and download sound drivers and just run them, they are good enough to find my hardware (which windows will put in one convenient location - aka device manager), and simply install, a reboot later, and it works - pretty much. Now I know in linux the advocates will say "you dont have to reboot", well I couldnt agree less!

I had no idea how to install the sound card on my linux box - I went to my motherboard home page, and of course, no sound drivers for linux - ok i thought, but then as you all know, linux uses 3rd party drivers for a lot of stuff, and after about 1 hour of searching the web, I found out that sound support is done thru a system called ALSA. Cool, so I ran alsaconf, it detected my sound card, and said it set it up correctly and that I can now play music etc.

Well that's complete rubbish, it detected my soundcard as I said, and installed some lines in modprobe.conf (whatever that is?) However after restarting the sound system in KDE it kept saying that my sound device doesnt exist. Well I'm pretty sure it does, I can see it through my transparent case, and it works in windows. So after 2 more hours of searching, I found that alsaconf messed up modprobe, and needed another line that someone in a forum gave me, after doing that - and yes rebooting, sound now works! Hrm difficult for a first time linux user? Yes, impossible for someone who's not a computer buff? Yes I'd say so.

But I was still happy at that point, sound was working, and in the process I did learn a little bit more about linux. Next time I'll know what to do, and wont take me as long.

So now I thought it's time to get some more of my hardware working - surprisingly my digital camera was painless to install, and could be installed through the kde gui interface.

My scanner caused some problems, but after an hour of poking around on the web, and finding there's some hacks with other drivers and some files from the windows drivers, you can get it to work, and it did. However again, hardware support was bad there, but at least the community could help me out, and get it working. This would not be an easy job though for a computer n00b.

Linux also had direct support it seemed for my webcams, as I found gnome meeting icons on the desktop with a connection to both my usb webcams - so went through setting them up, although that didnt work either, and I was left with a green webcam image. I must admit I was getting frustrated by this point, so left them for later, as I wanted more of a gaming machine at that point anyway, so moved on to graphics drivers, to get opengl working with hardware acceleration.

I have an ATI radeon X800 pro in my box, so I went to the ATI site, and proceeded to install it, the installer went through, detected I was running xorg, so installed the drivers for that. Great! I thought, finally something easy as ATI support my card properly. But when I got to the end, it said I had to run kgfrlxconf (or something to that name, i'm in windows now and cant remember the name of the file). Thought that was odd, in windows I just run the installer, reboot, and it works, full 3D, full gaming, full access to all features of my card.

But ok, this is linux, it will do things a bit differently, and I'm all for that, so I ran the configuration. There were several options in there which took me some thinking before I could answer the questions, but got through it - there is no way in hell that a computer n00b would have any clue about this, but I suppose a n00b doesnt really install new drivers, or do they? But anyway I got through it, although I was quite concerned as it kept going on about firegl cards and I dont have one of them! But ok, I figured it may just be reading from a text file and forgotten to include the radeon cards in there.

Gave the computer a reboot after this, and got back into KDE, although it had messed my trackball settings up and now my mouse wheel wasnt working, although luckily I knew how to fix that pretty quickly. Tried out opengl, but surprise surprise, the drivers werent installed properly, and I was running using software emulation which was VERY slow. So tried reinstalling, several times, to see if it's some options I got wrong, but no, never worked. Then I tried the xorg RPM installer from ATI, this also had the same effect. I then had to scour the web again to find a solution, couldnt find many solutions to this, found some thing about kernel sources and recompiling the AGP support or something, but that wasn't working correctly either, so all in all after 10 hours of trying to figure these drivers out - nothing! No open-gl.

Now some people might find this fun, and some of you might read this and think, the sort of person I am, ur surprised why i'm not enjoying this "hacking". Well if I wanted to have to recompile a kernel to get something as simple as AGP, and my graphics card working, or have to try and fiddle around with text files to get things configured correctly (in windows u never have to touch the registry or any ini files unless u want to, things still work) then I would have been on the kernel development team - but no, i'm not interested in that, I want my hardware to work, and work fast, I want my operating system to operate the computer correctly, and not require hours of frustration and work just to get simple things to work right. I want to do the things that I enjoy doing on computers, like gaming, or writing programs for the operating system, or internet use, or video editing etc.

By this time, I was in such a mood with it, that I wiped it, and went back to XP, and I was so happy to be back as well! Everything was working!

So that is my experience with linux, and although it has improved leaps and bounds since 5 years ago - it is still a pain. And not as easy as some articles might lead you to believe. Now will it ever be? I think so, looking at the improvements, and maybe by the time KDE4 is out, and another year down the line, it could well be competitive to longhorn - but is it competitive with XP now? Hell no.

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By this time, I was in such a mood with it, that I wiped it, and went back to XP, and I was so happy to be back as well!  Everything was working!

So that is my experience with linux, and although it has improved leaps and bounds since 5 years ago - it is still a pain.  And not as easy as some articles might lead you to believe.  Now will it ever be? I think so, looking at the improvements, and maybe by the time KDE4 is out, and another year down the line, it could well be competitive to longhorn - but is it competitive with XP now?  Hell no.

I had a similar experience with Linux a while back. I'll admit that I've never been used to having to dig around for drivers for my video card (although nVidia is a lot better with Linux on that respect) but all in all, I could see the potential. I'm running a Linux web server for my department at my university, and I can definately see how once everything is setup, it's a joy to use. The server has been running for over a year now and you could never tell the difference between now and the first day it was turned on.

I think the main problem with Linux is that the general population has become too comfortable with Windows and the "point-and-click" methods. In Windows, most of the work (for the common user) is done with the mouse. In Linux, everything (I'm using the word liberally here...) is done in command line. Many people look at a keyboard in fear and shudder at the thought of a command line because of nightmares with DOS - the OS that everyone sees as the predecessor to Windows (although it's not the case anymore).

I'll say that for my common everyday use of listening to music and the like, I found it a bit complicated to use Linux, but that could also be because I'm very, very comfortable with Windows.

I'd suggest that if you want to play around with Linux (properly), get a spare hard drive and swap it with your Windows hard drive when working with Linux (at least until you're comfortable with Linux). That way, you run no risk of messing up a working Windows install, and you can mess around with stuff to your liking. That's what I'm hoping to do in the near future.

I'd also suggest forgetting about how "easy" things are with Windows. MS holds the majority of the market share of computer users, so it's somewhat obvious that manufacturers are going to develop more drivers for Windows. Start from scratch and forget everything you ever knew about computers.

Linux != Windows

Linux > Windows ?

Linux < Windows ?

It's all up to the user.

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I think that the problems with drivers are not caused by the OSS community, Microsoft doesn't create drivers too, it's the manufacturer of the hardware who should create the driver (Like Nvidia :thumbup ). But you're absolutely right when it come's to userfriendlyness, Linux can learn here so much form Microsoft, I don't know what's wrong with point 'n click. Do you have to be a "hacker" to configure you're pc or install drivers for your hardware?

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your problem lies here, "I had no idea how to"

thats all. at one time, you didnt know how to in winblows either. if linux ran games like windows does, and i dont mean the few obscure, old, and pap titles that are around for it like tribes, sims etc, then i would drop windows in a heart beat.

if i could just go to the store and buy battlefield 2 for linux for example, and take it home and run it, without messing about with WINE for 2 weeks to get it semi working, then bye bye windows. im not alone int hinking this way, i know its one of the main reasons so many people stick with windows.

that and certain software packages become favourites.. like id miss photoshop... GiMP is cool and all but.. i prefer PS. id miss flashFXP, id miss Teamspeak, and Xfire, and my games. i oddly, wouldnt miss windows tho. windows isnt bad dont get me wrong. But linux is more attractive to me because of its openness, more functionality, more powerfull tools, more control, customisation and freedom. windows bleats too much to the home user who doesent know where the on button lives. i dont need, and dont like Billy boy holding my hand with everything i do or want to do.

its like Clippy.... you just want to kill him right?

Edited by FthrJACK
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Sigh, another "Linux is so ghey, Windows it the greatest" thread.

Well its the message I'm getting anyways, put it this way, if you want to run Windows, run windows, want to run Linux, run linux.


I'm sick of all of these threads about people going to linux from windows and expect it to do everything and have it nice and easy, and then they complain if something doesn't work.

I have been using Linux for some time now (3 years and counting, close to it anyways) and I have come across some really tough spots I must say, and frustrated at times, and threatened my computer with a WindowsXP cd, LOL...

BTW, I run linux on my main machine, and Windows on my other 2 machines. I find the challenge of Linux a very good learning curve. I use HP-UX at work which is a form of Unix, and it is quite good for picking up hardware and the like.

My guess is that Windows is for major software developers and users, and Unix/Linux and even Apples OS (which is also unix based) is for major hardware developers and users. Apple has its industry in hardware, go figure !

My 2 cents :yes:

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Why is it people keep mis interpretting these kinds of threads, this isnt a linux is so ghey thread, it's a linux isnt ready for the desktop thread. It's a "I really want to run linux instead of windows, but I cant because a lot of things still dont work, and it's frustrating" thread. I am not against windows, or linux, but I want to run linux because I'm all for opensource.

It was supposed to be a constructive article in hopes that some linux programmers or something will pick up on it, and fix those problems - so people who do want to run linux, can do so without having to spend days trying to figure out how to get a driver installed, and no matter how much u have to learn it, or windows, in windows it IS easier, which is why windows is still run on 90% of desktop machines.

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Windows is not "easier", you are simply more familiar with it, thats all. FthrJACK above has given a nice explanation...

And there's little chance of finding linux programmers on this board. Even if you did find them, their response would probably be along the lines of:

"alright, if you find it too difficult to use, then dont use it, cuz such n00b users are not needed in the OSS community anyway...."

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have to agree with prathapml and FthrJACK.

I grew up with windows 3.1 and playing mainly dos games, and screwing around in "xtree" lol.

if you learn that to show files in a "console/command prompt" is "dir" where as in linux its "ls" you get kinda lost.

same as the user interface, windows likes to stickeverything in "Programs/All Programs" where as linux likes to sort things out based on what type of app it is, such as Programming, Games, Multimedia.. etc...

I have attempted to learn linux about 5 times, each time i stop its because i know and am familiar with windows not linux, even simple things such as sharing a folder was way over my head in linux mainly because i don't know the OS. I didn't know i had to start up "samba"

but thats enough of me rambling lol.

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I come from an Windows-based background. I started first with MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11. Last year I tried my first linux distro named Knoppix 3.3. I liked it, but I didn't LOVE it as Windows. When I use Windows I feel like a fish in the water, when I use linux...I'm just bored. For me, linux is much simpler than Windows. Of course, compiling the kernel is not a very easy task, but easy enough, esspecially with the 2.6.x version. The only thing I don't like about linux is the lack of good drivers, but then again, this is not community's fault but the producer's, esspecially ATi.

I hope that will change and I hope this threads of Widows RULZ/Linux SUX and viceversa will dissapear once and for all. ;)

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There oughta be a distros for stopid ppl. (like me, apparently)


I dont wanna use bash or whatever command-prompt, text-editing it means.

(bash.org has some teh funneh)

I just want to click and go.

A tad more serious note: there's only couple of things that keeps me out of Linux, period.

The "text-editing-configuring" hassle with driver-issues (windows is pretty ****t about audio too, infact, all PC's are, be it Mac or whatever)

and the fact that I like Cubase SX and use it a lot.


But sure, the latest distros I've seen looks pretty hawt.

Dual-booting is the way for me atm.

Booting to XP if making music and playing games,

and Linux if im into other stuff.


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  • 2 weeks later...
I just want to click and go.



One click install of software, with all dependancies checked! And dont DARE say but its not FREE!

Actually youll find that Linspire is the only OS apart from Windows that will play Windows Media! -- clever huh? Im posting this from a Linspire machine right now - using IE6 - LOL! :wacko::yes:

Im actually coming back to Windows after helping develop Linspire 5. Ive been on a bit of a *nix Odyssey, Ive used Linspire, Suse, Mepis, Kanotix, Kubuntu, DSL, Debian Sarge, Fedora Core 2 & 3, Madriva an da few others, also unix - FreeBSD, Open BSD. They are different thats all, as someone else mentioned earlier Windows is only easy because your familiar with it. Im not saying that Linux is as easy as Windows as its not (apart from Linspire and Xandros) but it does get easier with use, and with Linspire theres not need to go near the Konsole (cli) 99.99999% of the time!

So why am I moving back to Windows? Because Im bored with Linux, I miss the challenge of a good virus and I need to pay my dues to Microsoft! So when my new XP laptop bombs out on me I hope you guys will help me - lol! :)

Edited by KernelOverlord
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:D Funny post KernelOverlord. debian-based distros such as Xandros, Knoppix, Mepis, K/Ubuntu are pretty easy.

All you have to know are 3-4 commands and use it in console:

install program:

apt-get install program

remove program:

apt-get remove program

upgrade distro:

apt-get dist-upgrade

update sources.lst: (this command must be executed AFTER new locations are added to sources.lst. This is done if you need newer version of a program)

apt-get update

As you can see it's pretty simple. ;)

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I too have tried to fool around with Linux and learn it.

I am a dedicated Windows user since 1996 when I started on Windows 95. When I finally upgraded to Windows XP in 2001, I had a spare computer lying around and I had heard that Linux was good for running servers on extremely low end PCs. So I decided to give it a try. I installed Red Hat 9 on a Pentium 1 166Mhz system with 64MB of RAM. (These specs don't make any sense for a server but it sufficed for what I was playing around with. I ended up running it on the twm window manager.)

The install went smoothly but after that I was completely lost. I was so used to Windows and I assumed Linux would be easy to learn. I was completely wrong and I decided I was too lazy to learn Linux.

Then about a couple months later, I bought a Linux how-to manual. It was very helpful and it helped me set up the comp as a server on my network. Although the process was tedious, I was able to set up the server with PHP, mySQL, Samba and I even tried a CS server on it. Overall, it was good experience with Linux. However, I didn't use Linux on a personal computer yet.

Recently, I finally got a computer of my own and I wanted to dual boot FC3(x86_64 to test out 64bit capabilities) and Windows XP. This is where I ran into trouble. I couldn't get FC3 to install because it had problems with my SATA HD drive.(Windows isn't amazing with these yet either) I figured out it was a problem with a driver. I tried a bunch of stuff trying to get FC3 to install and I ended up nuking my Windows XP installation as well.

So I had to reinstall Windows XP and this time I installed FC4test3( installed flawlessly and in 15 min). The dual boot works well now. However, I rarely use the FC4test3 installation. I tried to get simple stuff on Windows to work on Linux and I couldn't do it. I was too used to the 2 minute solutions that were possible in Windows. An example is MP3 playback. I spent a couple hours trying to get it to work and I gave up.

The lesson I have learned from my adventures in linux is that linux might take sometime for Windows users to learn completely and sometimes one needs to be creative to fix there own problem. As of right now, I don't have the discipline to learn Linux which is a disappointment because Linux offers complete freedom, something I wish I had on Windows.

Cheers to anyone who has had the discipline to make the conversion.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's hard to say what to think about Linux for most people. I am an A+/Net+ certified technician and have a few years experience with computer systems and the like. However, it seems that most people who are like Linux is GOD fall down and worship it! Or Linux SUX it's horrible it needs to burn and die! seem to fail to realize something. The current generation of computer users, and the newer upcoming generation are missing one little bit of experience, DOS. Most recent and new computer users have never had to deal with a command line based OS, they grew up with GUIs and grew up with Windows. So, when you want them to switch to an alternative, and they have to start messing around with complex codes and switches, some of them quite obscure in what they mean or what they do....it leaves many people frustrated, intimidated, or simply confused.

True Linux is quite different from Windows. It isn't Windows. Yet, until it starts to at least somewhat act like Windows, most Linux users will remain technicians and other computer geek types. Edit this, compile that, recompile this, change that, etc etc are all things that will keep most users, even those who don't like it, still using Windows.

The other area, as mentioned before, games. Sure if you spend a few weeks tweaking WINE or you buy a copy of Cedega, you might.....MIGHT...get your game to sorta work on Linux. That's the biggest hangup for most people. Linux doesn't have games that are made exclusively for it, and most games that have a Linux version out there are obsolete and not even close to the newer games that gaming fans are into.

This is why I feel that any Windows user that would like to try Linux, either test it with a live CD distro like Knoppix or go with a distro like Linspire. True, Linspire isn't exactly "free" in that you pay for the OS and you pay to access their "click n run" software, but it is fairly inexpensive....and out of what Linux distro's exist out there, it is one of the easier ones for any "noob" to just sit down and use as if it were at least somewhat similar to Windows.

Seriously though.....if someone ever releases a Linux that will smooth and easy install nearly any hardware....will make heavy use of the mouse instead of the keyboard.....and offers real support for most all modern and recent Windows games that lack Linux versions...then I think you'd see Linux use go up greatly...until then though...even if it becomes the most bloated, buggy, junk filled OS ever created.....Windows will still be what people use.

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