Linux is a highly developed, stable and advanced operating system – this, I will never question. It comes in every conceivable flavour – from server solutions that simply work (again, this cannot be argued with) to desktop releases with more software than anyone could possibly ever need.
So what’s the problem? Why, in the year 2011 is Linux still not ready for the desktop? It works – sure, but after a long time using Linux as a primary operating system I’m just about ready to buy a Macbook Pro and dual boot Windows. Read on to find out why I’m a sad penguin.
Enough, I’ve heard it all. “You might as well be using Windows XP if you’re going to use Ubuntu LOLZ!” – but this never used to be the case. I’ve toyed with Ubuntu now for years, and honestly can’t remember the first release I encountered. My decision to install Ubuntu came with version 10.04, after trying out a live USB release and finally getting fed up of Windows.
I know that Ubuntu does not represent Linux as a whole, so why am I doting on it? Because it goes by the slogan “Linux for Human Beings” and is often referred to as the OS of choice for switchers. It’s never been the most attractive, streamlined or powerful of the many thousands of distributions out there, but for a bit of web, publishing and a brief foray into the world of Linux it generally worked, with great stability and few issues.
In my experience much has changed. Ubuntu 11.04 introduced a new interface – Unity – and I can’t stand it. Sure, I could turn it off but most people won’t – do you have to turn off the default Windows or OS X interface for it to become usable? The two machines running Ubuntu in my household felt noticeably slower after the update, partly due to sluggish animations which lagged on both installations.
Add to that the plethora of driver issues that appeared overnight with 11.04 – reduced wireless performance, graphical errors and the most annoying persistent sound sync problem and I’m done. Way to break a perfectly operable operating system. Which leads me on to…
The Many Distributions
I’m not arguing with the server side of things. If you want a solid, reliable server and you’re comfortable with command line access then do yourself a favour and build a Linux box. However – for the newcomer, the dabbler and the experienced-with-Windows user there’s simply too much to choose from.
Some people complained when Microsoft announced multiple versions of Vista and 7, stating it would “confuse the consumer” – but we all know that’s rubbish as the manufacturer generally sells Home Premium or Professional for a not-so-painful OEM price, and if you really need Ultimate then you can always upgrade. The many possibilities that exist for those looking to install Linux can be off-putting and confusing.
Of course once you’ve listened to 101 suggestions, ruled out the ones you don’t like and finally installed your distribution of choice you’ve then got the small issue of…
Free open source software isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it’s worth paying for a quality product. Take GIMP for example, which after experiencing it, you’re either going to love or hate. If you hate GIMP, be it the workflow, interface or just general shortcomings in comparison with Photoshop then you’ve not got much in the way of alternatives.
GIMP is about as good as it gets on Linux when it comes to imaging software, and even compared to the Windows-only solution Paint.NET it can feel outdated, messy and not particularly intuitive to the Adobe generation. There’s no Adobe line-up for Linux despite the community’s many pleas (Flash support is pretty horrendous at times too).
If you’re a musician used to Traktor, Cubase, Reason, FLStudio (I could go on) or even Garage Band then you’re out of luck there too. There are a few decent solutions, but there’s a reason most music is produced on a Mac or Windows machine.
Serious video editing is a no-go too. Despite the many capable solutions out there that are built for Linux, there’s still nothing that compares to industry standards like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier. Of course these are expensive software suites I’m mentioning, but they’re also widely used and bought for a reason. Linux software simply can’t compare when it comes to this level of professional software, and it also can’t compare when it comes to…
Things have got better when it comes to gaming on Linux over the last few years, but “better” should not necessarily be confused with “good”. Valve’s distribution service Steam has had a major impact on PC gaming, playing a pivotal role in delivering everything from small indie games to full price new ones. The bad news is that it’s probably never heading to Linux (and even if it did, most games would probably not see the journey through).
There are lots of free games on Linux, but if you’re into your hardware-testing first person shooters or any of the latest releases then you’re going to need Windows. Aside from the odd free-to-play title, very little in the way of recent releases make it to Linux.
Dual-booting is always an option, but if you’re into your games in a big way you probably won’t be bothered with that.
Linux is not a write-off, but as a primary operating system it’s got some serious problems. Not all of these can necessarily be fixed either, though that’s not to say the humble penguin doesn’t have a place where it can be useful.
If you’re lucky enough to find a distribution you love, don’t play games and couldn’t care less about Adobe’s Creative Suite or a powerful video editor then that’s awesome. And those old PCs or netbooks without a lot of grunt might just get a new lease of life with Linux. Good luck!
What do you think about Linux? Do you agree that Linux is not good? Disagree? Have a say in the comments, below.