A Linux Attack Considered

Well the last ruckus over operating systems had barely settled down here in the Linux blogosphere when another one started up anew.

The cause this time? Oh, just a little article entitled, “The Disadvantages of Using Linux” by a blogger known as “DarkDuck.” [*Editor’s note – Dec. 5, 2011]

“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.”

‘Sorry, RMS’

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.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


  • I have no problems playing bluray on Linux.. Open disk and stream with makemkv view the stream with vlc. I use a small script to do it all so 1 click and my movie is playing.

    • I have been using GNU/Linux for more than a decade and very few times have I seen any such problems. I kept one system going for three versions of Debian GNU/Linux with regular upgrades and dist-upgrades. Today my whole household runs GNU/Linux and my wife who is still a complete novice after using PCs for 25 years has no problem with it.

      OTOH, I have worked in places where a few percent of work was lost daily due to crashes of that other OS. Any problems of GNU/Linux reliability pale in comparison. Then there’s malware…

      • You are choosing the "imaginary problems kill windows" meme along with "works for me", is this correct? please in the future go to TM Repo and choose the appropriate number of the lame excuse you are gonna use, kthanx.

        Are you gonna say that Ms Hudson with more than a decade’s worth of exp as an admin is "doing it wrong"? its a shame i can’t post links here or i’d put the one from Dell where they have to run their own repo just to keep Linux from falling down and going BOOM! if one of the largest OEMs on the planet can’t even get any decent QA from the developers, even though they ONLY offer Linux on a teeny tiny subset of hardware? The rest of us have better odds of winning the powerball.

        Look pogson i’ve seen linux make a stinky with my own two eyes waaaaay too often, and we are talking bog standard hardware, realtek, atheros, ati and nvidia chipsets, the same basic bog standard stuff that has been in PCs for the past 8 years and STILL it breaks!

        Until the community gets royally fed up with being jerked around by Torvalds and says "We are tired of broken drivers, either you find a way to fix it or give us an ABI" then things are simply never gonna get any better. For the love of Pete look at the numbers man, even giving your product away you are lower than the margin for error! Doesn’t that give you a clue? Or do you believe its some vast conspiracy by OEMs to give their money away? I’d personally would LOVE to cut the costs of Windows out of my builds but handing people a PC that will either break in less than 6 months or with ZERO security patches for the life of the machine? No sale Pogson, no sale.

        • What nonsense, hairyfeet. I have not seen a broken driver, ever, in a Debian release. Debian tests things before they are released.

          I don’t know what Ms Hudson’s trigger was but I have seen nothing like it in thousands of GNU/Linux installations. In my own home I have 7 PCs running GNU/Linux and they all purr. Brazil, Russia, India, and China are all promoting GNU/Linux because it works. So do I.

          • "Use distro X" followed by "works for me". Please go to TMRepo and see those TMs as they cover every single excuse you’ve given so far. these same lame excuses are used SO often that you could print the top 20 from TMRepo and cover every FOSSie apologist post for the last decade, its like those scripts they hand out to Indian tech support.

            But numbers don’t lie friend and if i could post links i’d be happy to show you how Walmart, Best Buy, Asus, company after company tried your product and RAN AWAY. Why do you think that is? do you think its a conspiracy? i’ll tell you why, its the same reason i won’t have a single Linux machine for sale at my shop. Its because while the windows and mac machines run for years the first 6 month upgrade deathmarch comes around and its "LOL I made a stinky" with Linux. How many times have you had to go CLI in the past year? Don’t lie Pogson and say none, we aren’t stupid you know.

            The dark truth is Linux IS Windows 98, nothing more. What was Win98? It was a CLI OS that had a GUI tacked on that kinda sorta worked but broke often and for anything other than the most basic of tasks required CLI and you could bypass the GUI completely because it was a second class citizen compared to the CLI. What is Linux? It is a CLI OS that has a GUI tacked on that kinda sorta worked but breaks often and for anything other than the most basic of tasks requires CLI and you can bypass the GUI completely because it is a second class citizen compared to the CLI.

            Now if that is how you like things? fine and dandy, I know a guy that is still running winME too. but if you expect to compete with Windows 7/8 and OSX Lion with that I’m sorry but you’re delusional. Too much is half finished, too much is unstable, to much requires fiddling and CLI. Apple and MSFT are bringing their A games and you’re bringing Mickey mouse hobbyist time and that just won’t cut it. Like I said how do you HONESTLY explain how a system admin with over a dozen years of exp like Ms Hudson can’t even keep Linux from making a stinky?

  • Obvious problem with Linux development environment: nobody pays for it; thus, there’s no incentive to satisfy the needs of a "typical" user. This satisfies only the few who use Linux for Linux’s sake. I love Linux Mint – for its vibe, its people, its quality. Still, so many apps are left unfinished, and they include the major ones. OpenOffice/LibreOffice has terrible change tracking, and so on and on. If PC-BSD worked reliably, I’d install it in a heartbeat. Oh, it does? Well, I’ll just see…

    • If Barb who has more linux exp than a dozen guys here STILL can’t get the stupid thing to run without promptly having the OS shoot itself in the head, what chance does normal folks have? that would be NONE. I have XP boxes than have been in the field for TEN YEARS and not a single driver breakage, NOT ONE!

      THAT, that right there, is what you are competing against. Frankly If I were Ms Hudson and refused to run Windows (which I told her to try Windows 7, its really nice) then i would just call it a day and buy a Mac. The Mac WORKS, Windows WORKS, Linux? "LOL I made a stinky". this is why a free OS is doomed to fail, because without anyone to crack the whip frankly nobody, not the developers, not the distros, not even old Linus himself, cares if it works for anyone but THEM and their idea of "works’ is frankly as long as bash functions most of the time.

      But as Barb found out and what I’ve been saying for years Linux is fundamentally broken at this time. updates kill it, drivers just fall over and die, packages get borked, its a total mess. I gave up on Linux in my shop when after over 20 different distros I found I couldn’t guarantee a single one, not one, would survive its first update fully functional. that is just sad folks, i have seen that level of bugginess since Win9X.

      If you want to gain share and not just run off more folks like Ms Hudson this HAS TO BE FIXED. no CLI mess, no forum dances, no "LOL it fall down and broke", no excuses. if I can’t build a box with bog standard hardware and get Linux to function for 5 years without disabling all updates and risking it getting pwned? then its not free as in beer, its free as in worthless, as Ms Hudson sadly found out when she lost her data. Losing data in 2011 is inexcusable people!

  • I have admired your wit and wisdom. Please give GNU/Linux another chance. I think you are making a terrible mistake dropping GNU/Linux. The alternatives are worse. Please sleep on it or sober up…

    I just did an upgrade from Squeeze to Wheezy (months away from release) Debian GNU/Linux and I had one package missing, one file out of 3 million. The alternatives are not any better.

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