Well the last ruckus over operating systems had barely settled down here in the Linux blogosphere when another one started up anew.
“No standard edition,” “learning curve,” “non-compatible software” and “unsupported hardware” are just a few of the charges DarkDuck makes against our beloved operating system, [*Editor’s note – Dec. 5, 2011] sparking numerous outbursts of outrage from the crowds over on LXer, where the topic was picked up with gusto.
So outraged was one blogger, in fact, that mere angry comments were not enough — instead, a rebuttal was apparently required. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before “The Advantages of Using Linux” appeared on LXer as well, to the tune of even more comments.
Bottom line? Nothing short of another Great-Debate-o-Rama down at the Linux blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge.
‘A Puff Piece’
“There are no disadvantages to using GNU/Linux,” protested blogger Robert Pogson, for example, calling the article in question “a puff piece without merit.”
Rather, Linux “is a truly general purpose OS used on desktops, servers, embedded, clustered, networked and production systems,” Pogson explained. “I have yet to see any role for which it is not nearly optimal.
“Certainly GNU/Linux beats most other popular operating systems in flexibility and performance,” he added. “That all stems from openness and Free Software licensing.”
‘The Author Hit a Nerve’
Indeed, “some sections of the anti-Linux rant were poorly researched,” agreed consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.
“Hardware, for instance, is usually fine,” he pointed out. “Although there may be a slight lag with new hardware, it balances out by supporting a lot of older hardware better than Windows does.”
On the other hand, “software I will agree is a problem, and [the author] hit a nerve with the Blue Ray bit,” Mack acknowledged.
‘A Smack Upside the Head’
“Blu Ray playing is not a software issue and not a hardware issue,” he added. “My Blu Ray writer works great in Linux, but there is a definite lack of (even paid) software, and I’m not sure what the logic was behind that.
“I can rip any Blu Ray in my collection to my drive and watch the resulting 30gb mkv file, and I can shrink it to 10 with Handbrake if I don’t mind losing subtitles, but I can’t watch it directly off the drive,” Mack noted. “Someone needs a smack upside the head for that logic.”
Overall, though, “I love Linux and, except for some corner cases where I have software that runs on Windows, I have used mainly Linux for the last 13 years,” he concluded. “I find that it does a lot of things that I just can’t do on Windows.”
‘This Will Only Get Better’
Support “isn’t necessarily a problem,” began Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, citing one of the points in the “Disadvantages” article.
Regarding standardization, meanwhile, “the way things work on Linux is that everyone is free to try their own ways of working, and then projects collaborate on standards,” Travers explained. “I have watched the rise of Linux Standard Base and Free Desktop in this area, and I figure that this will only get better as time goes on.”
Software choice, on the other hand, is “the one real disadvantage listed in the article,” Travers agreed. “While choice of software is also a strength of Linux, there are a few important blindspots.”
First, “apps for vertical industries are usually based around Windows,” he said. “These apps are far more mature than Linux equivalents, and this is something we as a Linux community need to do a better job of working on.
“There is no reason why free/open source software can’t work well in this area except historical lack of scale,” he added. “We will get there, however.”
Similarly, “many areas of consumer software are less mature or even not available,” Travers pointed out. “Part of the problem here is that business models are not as sustainable in the consumer space as they are in the business space.”
For the foreseeable future, then, “I think the challenge will be in courting proprietary software makers — including, but not limited to, games vendors — to offer their software on Linux,” he concluded. “Sorry, RMS, your model doesn’t work as well for consumer-specific software.”
‘Removing Linux Permanently’
Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site, tended to agree primarily with the “disadvantages” side, however.
“The Linux world is extremely fragmented, and getting worse,” Hudson explained. “One consequence is that everyone ends up distro-hopping. This reduced loyalty means that every distro is one bad update away from losing its user base.”
Linux has been Hudson’s primary desktop “since before the turn of the century, and I’ve done my share of distro-hopping, and yet today I find myself in the process of removing Linux permanently,” she said.
‘The Final Straw’
“For me, the final straw was an update that left my laptop unable to boot linux, followed by a fresh install (except for my /home partition) that ate a decade’s worth of email and over a dozen accounts in a failed ‘migration,'” Hudson explained.
“Fortunately, I have full backups,” she added. “Not so fortunately, none of the problems of previous releases are fixed. My wifi once again doesn’t work. Neither does my ‘linux-supported’ printer.
“Removing the desktop indexing programs (known resource hogs) also removed Gnome, which I would tend to classify as a feature, not a bug, but I can see how others might have a different opinion,” Hudson went on. “I still have to reconfigure my video every time I plug in an external screen, something even Windows 9x was able to figure out. The scheduler bug that causes everything to pause at random times is now worse.”
‘So Long, and Thanks for the Fish’
In short, “the sad conclusion is that for the vast majority of users, Linux will be a promising first date that turns into a bad, even abusive, long-term relationship,” she said. “After 15 years, I don’t want to hear any more excuses or how things will get better in the future.
“If I’m dual-booting in the future, it will be with FreeBSD, not Linux,” Hudson concluded. “So long, and thanks for the fish.”
Finally, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet had a similar perspective.
‘Just Calling It as I See It’
“Until I can happily hand a new Linux box to a customer and KNOW that five years from now or even seven years from now it’ll still be running WITHOUT having to disable updates, or jump through CLI hoops or chase forum fixes, the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages,” hairyfeet opined.
“I truly wish that weren’t so,” he added. “With the big XP EOL coming up, I’m having to scramble for a source for Windows 7 Starter simply because I can’t find a single Linux distro that will run reliably past update, and that is a shame.
“The idea of a free OS is a wonderful one, but as it is now, it’s really for programmers and hobbyists, not Suzy the checkout girl,” hairyfeet concluded. “Sorry, community — just calling it as I see it.”
*ECT News Network editor’s note – Dec. 5, 2011: DarkDuck contacted LinuxInsider to clarify authorship of “The Disadvantages of Using Linux”: “Yes, this is my blog, but this is guest post by Lisa Hann. This is mentioned in author by-line at the end of the post.”