Linux: Not for (Married) Lovers?

You just never know on any given day what’s waiting for you in the Linux blogosphere.

Some days, it’s fresh, awesome news of FOSS’ growing mainstream acceptance. Other days, well, it’s not.

Take last Thursday. Linux Girl was scouting around the blogosphere, as per usual, listening in on thread after thread of current discussion. Amid all the well-worn topics that have already been picked apart ad nauseum, however, one jumped out.

“Linux is only for bachelors,” the blog post’s title proclaimed.

A double-take or two later, Linux Girl was in the thick of it, knee-deep in reasons why marriage and our favorite operating system just aren’t compatible.

Sound reasonable to you? Linux Girl didn’t think so, either.

‘The Documentation Was Useless’

“This morning, my Scientific Linux Virtual box guest developed a serious case of clock slew,” began the post on Sam Trenholme’s Web page. “After some research, and trying all four possible timing sources (see /sys/devices/system/clocksource/clocksource0/available_clocksource), having to reboot the Virtual guest every time I tried a different clock source, I finally came to the conclusion that the only way I am going to get a stable clock in Scientific Linux again is by upgrading to Scientific Linux 6.”

With that disaster settled, “I then started to research why fontconfig wasn’t accepting a perfectly good BDF font file I created in Fontforge and gbdfed,” the post went on. “The documentation was useless, and like a good open-source program, the various fontconfig commands (fc-cache, etc.) didn’t log any error messages whatsoever.”

All in all, it read like a geek’s version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — but with a surprise ending.

‘I’m a Married Man’

Rather than chalking it up as just that — a bad day — Trenholme jumped to what’s nothing if not a shocking conclusion.

“The bottom line is this: I’m a married man today,” he wrote. “I really don’t have time to struggle with poorly documented programs which don’t give out helpful error messages and require source-level hacking to figure out what the [email protected]#$ is going on.

“There is a reason why Windows, not Linux, is my primary desktop OS,” Trenholme added.

Linux Girl thought she could hear the angels weep a little upon reading that last line — or they might have been laughing; she wasn’t sure.

Either way, such quiet utterances were soon drowned out by the hooves of the herds of Linux bloggers, galloping forth at top speed to have their say.

‘The Exact Opposite’

“I dropped windows during my first year of marriage due to the frustration of dealing with drive by malware and related junk,” countered theboomboomcars among the nearly 70 responses on LXer, for example.

“For the last 6 years or so I haven’t had to deal with problems that wouldn’t get fixed no matter what I did, short of re-installation,” theboomboomcars added. “The aggravation I put up with during the first six months of my marriage from windows was far more than all the remaining years from linux. So I would say that my experience is the exact opposite of this guy.”

Alternatively, “why the heck is this guy using Scientific Linux when, from the tone of the blog item, it’s way over his head?” wondered lcafiero. “It sounds like trolling to me.”

Then again: “ mean its Linux’s fault I’m a Bachelor?!?!” exclaimed Scott_Ruecker.

‘What a Nut’

Linux Girl couldn’t wait to hear the thoughts of her regular barmates down at the blogosphere’s Punchy Penguin Saloon. She wasn’t disappointed.

“What a nut,” began consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack. “It’s very strange to me that he has enough time to create his own fonts but not enough time to file bug reports to the font maintainers.

“As for his clock skew: how does he know it wasn’t the host’s fault?” Mack mused. “And his fix was wrong, since NTP would have been the correct fix.”

‘Problems Never Seen by Other Humans’

“Bachelors are not the only ones who can use GNU/Linux desktops,” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “I have had students from grade 1 to 12 use it just fine. None of them needed to configure the clock…”

Trenholme’s article, in fact, “is an example of the trolls who visit my blog with some obscure problem never seen by other humans,” Pogson asserted. “I have used NTP to sync clocks on PCs and servers for years and never had a problem. I can have 100 PCs ticking over better than Swiss watches.”

Of course, “running GNU/Linux in a virtual machine of that other OS is pretty silly; run GNU/Linux as the host and VMs will be smoother,” Pogson suggested.

‘Good News, Bad News’

Indeed, “this sounds like one of those ‘good news, bad news’ jokes,” began Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“First, we have some good news: If you’re in the market for a single guy, he’s more likely to be using linux ‘because linux is for bachelors,'” Hudson explained.

“The bad news? He’s a Windows user at heart,” she added.

“Now for some more good news: He claims he uses Windows so he can spend more time with you,” Hudson continued. “More bad news: He prefers Windows because upgrading linux is ‘so hard.'”

Bottom line? “We’ve seen this movie before,” Hudson concluded. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

‘My Wife Hates Both Equally’

“My wife hates both Linux and Windows equally,” offered Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. “When Linux works well, she swears by it. When it doesn’t work, she hates it.”

What that means, though, “is that once I get things set up, she is far happier with it than with Windows on the whole,” Travers explained.

Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet, however, could relate to Trenholme’s story.

‘Windows Beats It Hands Down’

“A wise man once said, ‘Linux is free if your time is worth nothing,’ and that article is a perfect illustration of that, as well as my personal story with Linux,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

“The simple fact is the good Mr Trenholme is right,” hairyfeet asserted. “Linux ‘works’ if you have infinite time to fiddle with it. For those of us where time is money, or who just want our machines to ‘just work’? Then Windows beats it hands down.”

‘The Black Hole That Sucks Up My Time’

Slashdot blogger yagu wasn’t so sure.

“I think there’s an interesting point to be made about the demands put on IT experts, but I don’t think it’s much about Linux,” yagu told Linux Girl. “In fact, Trenholme’s thesis rings more true for me had he substituted ‘Windows’ or ‘Microsoft’ in Linux’s place.”

The need to spend time or energy running down problems “in buggy and poorly documented technology happens in Linux, it happens in Windows,” yagu pointed out. “My experience skews Microsoft as the black hole that sucks up my time tracking down problems.”

Either way, “whether it’s Linux or any other platform that makes one need to be a bachelor(ette), it’s time for that person to take a second look at their work-personal life balance equation,” yagu concluded. “The issue isn’t how much technology demands, it’s how much one is willing to surrender to those demands.”


  • My wife has been around computers for over 20 years. We had a fight over the purchase of my first modem. That fight lasted until she discovered BBS’s. She is quite the social butterfly and thrived in the old school social networks. For her it is about what she is doing, not what she is using.

    She does not like change for change sake, but was quick to adopt Chrome because Farmville ran faster.

    I am a geek, and I think that is a bias toward Linux. Behind the veil of changing the world, Linux is fun….and boring. I distinctly remember my first Xwindows system running. It was kind of anti-climactic. "Now what?" There is always something to fix in MS OS.

    Other than Netflix, I could change out Windows for Linux and my wife would not notice the change.

    btw…my wife married a geek…still geeky after all these years.

    maybe there should be a new axiom..Those who can use Linux, those who don’t care use Windows.

    • Did Westboro Baptist Church send you here Hairyfeet? 🙂

      It seems that someone with so much contempt for Linux spends a lot of time reading and writing about it.

      OEM’s are the place for the continuity for drivers. (btw, Bill Gates used to blame bad drivers for Windows instability) OEM’s with so much time spent building demo’s that are worthless, they certainly are in the position to do the leg work to stabilize the drivers.

      There are no alternative OS machines on store shelves because MS was so effective at their anti-competitive practices. There are plenty of carcases (the victims of MS) littered about.

      You can not honestly discuss the state of Desktop OS without pointing out MS misdeeds.

      You can not enter an honest discussion in this forum, because you arrive with an agenda.

      • Why do I care? Because frankly I WANT Linux to succeed, and seeing it hobbled over political and religious BS (and yes, that’s what it is, religious dogma BS) frankly ticks me off!

        If hardware ABIs are a bad idea why does EVERYONE, and I do mean everyone, BSD, Solaris, OSX, Windows, OS/2, have them? Is the community so arrogant to think they know better than the ENTIRE planet?

        And it is NOT the job of the OEMs, we’ve seen where that road leads. it leads to where we are now where if you want a functional dell Ubuntu offering you have to give up ALL updates, including security mind you, and stick with a badly out of date repo supplied by Dell. Why? Because like every other stupid distro, even with just a tiny subest of hardware to work with, if you use the repos then you end up with BROKEN DRIVERS.

        You see Jodatech, unlike most of the young ‘uns here, I remember what it was like to have REAL competition. We had Commodore and Apple, GEM and MSFT, Unix and Atari, and you know what? it was GOOD. It was good for consumers as it made for less risk of nastiness, it was good for the birth of new ideas and new ways of doing things, it was good all around. The sad part is that if Linus Torvalds wasn’t an absolute ass and would just admit he made a mistake (gasp, horror!) then frankly Linux would be standing right beside OSX and Windows and would be in B&M stores and on shelves and there would be real competition again.

        But no, in 1993, when computers had 1Mb of RAM max and Windows was a shell on top of DOS, Linus decided that he didn’t like ABIs because it wouldn’t let him just break things willy nilly. Now it is 2011 and yet Torvalds STILL treats the kernel like his personal playtoy, and not the heart of a multibillion dollar OS that causes grief and wasted man hours when he decides to Goatse the kernel just to get a .03% boost on some benchmark. This is the kind of Mickey Mouse stupidity you’d expect from a hobbyist OS NOT a world class desktop!

        So mark my words sooner or later someone is gonna get tired of his crap (I’m praying Canonical, Come on Shuttleworth you CAN do it!) and just forks the whole thing away from him. One of the nice things about GPL is a fork CAN become the mainline if enough people get behind it, and I bet if Canonical offered an "Ubuntu ABI kernel" to where drivers would "just work" no matter how many times you updated then the OEMs would jump on board and everyone could go with Canonical or stay in broken town.

        In this dead economy there are plenty like me that would LIKE to sell your product, and there are many who could benefit from its Internet centric design and security practices. But when you can’t even run security updates without a trip to broken land like it is 1993? Well having a broken driver model sure doesn’t help anyone. It has been TWENTY YEARS and Linux is still below the margin for error. Are you gonna seriously argue it is a world conspiracy? Fix the problems and like Android and iOS watch Linux desktops bloom like flowers all over the place. don’t? well in 20 years maybe you’ll actually have 2%, that’ll put you right where Win2K and Win9X are right now. Kinda sad really, all that effort ruined thanks to Linus and his refusal to admit he made a mistake. but then again I heard the kernel team is ego central so I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

        • Your perspective is fair.

          You have pointed out that anyone can pick up the kernel and do this. Why does it not happen? HP, Dell, IBM, ASUS, Toshiba or Gateway (and all there other names) certainly have the resources to do it. I suspect it is still about the pressure from Redmond.

          Android is manipulated by the manufacturers. There must be similar resources to what would be needed to stabilize desktop Linux available.

          Linux is not my cause. I have no problem with people being paid for their work. I do believe a common effective OS can minimize the digital divide.

          Old school stuff….before windows I liked Geoworks. Its tiled interface looks very much like this next gen ui Unity, Windows 8.

          I make my living fixing MS based systems. I use Linux….for everything except Netflix.

          I do agree with the upgrades breaking computers. There are many Zealots that disregard problems with distros. Egos get involved and reason goes out the Windows 🙂

          • This is going to sound harsh, and unsympathetic — maybe even arrogant — but somebody needs to say it:

            Taking your own version of events at face value, it appears that you know Windows well, and assumed you therefore know Linux well, also. So you put together a few boxes, installed Linux on them, and tinkered a little till you got them working.

            That you didn’t truly knowing what you were doing is understandable — you were perhaps deceived by your extensive practical knowledge of Windows and assumed Linux works much the same. In your shoes I could well have (probably would have) made that same mistake.

            But then, before making sure you understood this new Linux stuff (with which you had little if any practical experience) you started selling these systems — WITHOUT THOROUGHLY TESTING THEM, FIRST!

            Well, that didn’t work out well; Linux isn’t Windows. You might have gotten away with such a casual approach with an OS you know well, but implementing an experiment in such a slapdash fashion was a recipe for trouble.


            – – – – – – – – – –

            In contrast:

            I’m not in IT, but I have run a small business. More to the point, I volunteer a few times a month at a local charity that builds, provides and supports desktop Linux systems for disadvantaged users who can’t afford new Windows boxes, and builds, provides and supports Linux desktops, servers and networks for various non-profit and community organizations.

            This volunteer organization manages to avoid the horrendous travails that afflicted you, using mainly volunteers who don’t know or even have computers (but would like to "earn" one, in exchange for 24 hours of helping-out) and computer-knowledgeable people who as often as not are Windows-users who come in with no Linux knowledge.

            There are other such organizations scattered all about. Such outfits just can’t afford to spend large amounts of time supporting unreliable systems.

            And there are businesses (eg. System’76, ZaReason) that sell mostly or only pre-loaded Linux computers, who would rapidly go out of business if Linux was but a fraction as inherently troublesome as you claim (returns cost money and reputation).

            And I know that in my own area there are small shops servicing local business, who sell Linux as well as Windows based solutions — their main complaint about Linux is that it doesn’t generate nearly as much "maintenance" income as Windows, because it is so reliable.

            If they can do it, you could. Others have, and do. It’s just not nearly as hard as you make it out to be.

          • I think you’d be taken more seriously if you actually made it clear you understand the difference between security (and other) updates to one version of Ubuntu, and upgrading from one version to the next – 10.10 to 11.04 for example.

            You may have had bad experiences, but thousands of people manage to *update* their Ubuntu systems every day without breaking anything. As a counter example, I’ve been running Ubuntu-based distros on three different computers for the last two years and never had an update cause a problem.

            Now, upgrading via the Update system is problematic, I know, and I agree that Ubuntu would be better off if it didn’t push the option so strongly at users. But there are plenty of Ubuntu-based systems that don’t do that – Linux Mint is only one example.

          • As we have seen LTS is a codeword for "old software never updated" and at least at the point I gave up, Ubunto 10.04 I believe is the number, there was NO clear and easy way to have security and ONLY security updates? And what if the old version of program X is pwned, how do we allow them to update to version Y when many programs (again thanks to Torvalds and the craptastic ABI model) have requirements for Kernel Z and they are on Y? Should they have to learn how to fricking compile software just to use your OS?

            In the end the great lie is everyone compared Linux to Windows when it isn’t even close. Linux is more like pre Intel Macs in that you can only use a subset of hardware and even then you are rolling the dice. At least pre Intel you could go to an Apple store and get hardware that "just works" but with Linux it is a maze of outdated hardware lists, no real way to only update the security without the OS, frankly it is a mess.

            With Windows my customers get a MINIMUM of a decade of security updates, and with the economy dead more and more people are hanging onto their machines longer. With a max of three years on desktops Linux is a throw away OS that might be good for throw away hardware like cell phones, but NOT for a desktop.

  • In my family, most of the IT challenges come from the Windows machines my wife uses with work.

    I will concede that there is a bit of work setting up my Linux machines in the first run, but after that, nothing fails except for hardware failures.

  • Now being a little shop I certainly don’t like paying for Windows licenses, they aren’t giving me ANY breaks on price nor reasons to want to go with them. I also give out as SOP a full selection of FOSS on all new builds and repairs, such as LibreOffice (horrible name, why is it that nobody in FOSS can use a catchy name if their life depended on it. LibreOffice? The Gimp? what’s next the Goatse email client?) and Firefox, along with Comodo Dragon (great for FB and other social sites) Sumatra PDF Reader,etc. So I thought I’d actually listen to all the (what I later found out was total lies) of the FOSS community and try selling and supporting some Linux boxes, oh what a bad joke that was! Out of the half a dozen machines I set up, ALL with bog standard parts like Realtek, Broadcom, SiS, AMD, Intel, etc out of all six NOT A SINGLE ONE managed to survive an update intact! Not one! And was there a simple "find drivers" button, an easy way for me to get a new driver to make it go? NO! It was "forum hunt" all the way, where you had to deal with this huge mess of CLI "fixes" that you had dang well better know the EXACT make/model/firmware of the part and even then you often had to "tweak" said fixes to get them to work!

    Out of the four machines I sold I ended up having to take back EVERY SINGLE ONE and sell them as used. Why? Because without a standard hardware ABI the drivers fail constantly! With my time costing $35 an hour it takes less than 3 hours to equal the cost of Win 7 HP and most forum hunts were sucking up 5 to 6 hours easily! And people REALLY aren’t happy when they take their new machine home and the next week see it has updates waiting, only to run it and watch the thing fall like a house of cards. You name it, sound, networking, wireless, video, I saw multiple failures time after time after time, and on average some of these broken drivers would go for days or even weeks before a "fix" was even out there! What am I supposed to tell a customer/ "Maybe they’ll fix it in Ubuntu Hairy Hyena"? Tell them they’ll just have to do without networking or sound for a week or two? Even Dell has to host their own repos, because if you run updates from Canonical they BREAK DRIVERS, and that is one of the largest OEMs on the planet. If that don’t tell you the driver situation is broken I don’t know what will.

    So I’m sorry Linux guys, but until Torvalds retires or someone takes the kernel away from him like Google has with Android (Please Canonical, you can do it!) then I stand by my "Linux is free if your time is worthless" because I was wasting an average of 5 hours+ on "forum hunts" after EVERY. SINGLE. UPDATE. This ain’t 1993 folks, and customers just won’t put up with that. Not when I have XP machines going on 8 years without a single problem, and Win 7 machines that have been running continuously since RTM (I was smart enough to steer my customers away from Vista) without a single hiccup. There is NO EXCUSE on drivers that work for Foo failing on Foo+1, there really isn’t. I would say everything else is ready to go head to head against OSX and Win 7, but the driver situation is like something from the days of Win 3 and it just won’t cut it, sorry.

    • See, this was your problem. There is a lot of hype from people about Ubuntu, which came mostly from how easy some things where to set up in it, and.. well.. Lets just say that it is **not** a stable system. Problems no one else anyplace ever sees you will get with Ubuntu, if you are dumb enough to patch versions. This however is *hardly* unique to the Linux world. A few weeks back I had to manually apply a hot fix to Windows, because a) it didn’t patch it itself in the updates, and b) I was getting crazy memory leaks, video problems in some games, crashes that made no sense, etc. All of them stemming from either a bad update, or something not getting updated. And don’t get me started on how the plug-and-play web camera I got hold of not long ago has neither a driver for it, nor is fully supported by the one Windows found to use with it.

      BTW, also no longer using Dialup, but back when I was, I couldn’t even *use* the damn modem without a driver, and neither the one that came with the disk, nor the one that eventually worked, but was for the wrong version, was ever correct. Why the hell do you need a driver for something that all you do is plug it into a damn serial port and issue some AT and/or dial commands? Its a frakking modem, for zod’s sake.

      So, yeah, you pick the most popular Linux, without bothering to make sure it actually is stable, and doesn’t have issues, it comes with an auto-update that people have been pulling their hair out over, and then you want to whine that everything everyone says is lies.

      Here is a hint – most people only update if a) something isn’t working, b) they are sure that the update will improve performance, and c) they know what they are doing. Anything that suggests updates, automatically, in the Linux world, is otherwise probably not something you should be taking seriously. Its probably not necessary, you can’t be sure, since you personally didn’t vet the update, that the bozo company putting it out didn’t screw up (same with Microsoft), and if something does break, you damn well better be sure that the distro maker actually provides real help (try getting jack in terms of help from Microsoft, unless you are a big corporation, who pays them for premium support either..)

      Either one, if things go wrong, you end up hunting "other" people to tell you how to fix it. The hotfix I had to install, to get half a dozen things to stop crashing when I even tried to run them, I found on a damn game forum, of all places. MS didn’t have a thing about it, anyplace, neither did the people that made the programs with the problem. How is this *any* different than Ubuntu producing yet another semi-stable, half broken, distro, which you then have to hunt fixes for? Oh, right… You might find the information on how to fix it on 5-6 forums, not just one post, from like 2003, mentioning the hotfix needed to correct what went wrong.

      Anyone that says Windows "just works" has a very loose, and questionable, definition of both words in that phrase. Its a bit like saying that the Spruce Goose "just flew", or a garbage barge, "just floats". Look closer and you find that the expense of the first is impossible, and the later is useless for just about anything other than calm waters, and hauling garbage. Windows "just works" the same way. As long as you don’t get into rough seas, you don’t mind the cost associated with everything from DirectX cards, to proprietary one-off drivers/interfaces, to the actual cost of every install. In short, as long as all you care about is that is waddles its way along, like a 1950s TV transmission. That "just worked" too, but it sucked.

      Yes, Linux has problems, ranging from stupidly bad documentation by people that think like engineers, instead of software developers (i.e., it can run circles around Windows, but finding something that says how… isn’t always so easy), to people pushing out horrible messes like Ubuntu has become. But, this is hardly different than any other technology. If you are dumb enough to buy the off brand iPod clone, where half the stuff on it doesn’t work well, the software is buggy, and you can’t put as much music on it, you have to suffer with what you get. Don’t go and whine that the problem is MP3 players in general, and everyone should go back to carrying a Walkman, because it "just works". The problem is what you picked, not the technology.

      • There is an issue with letting Ubuntu computers prompt the user over and over about upgrading to the latest and greatest.

        If you’re going to enter a whole new universe (and the linux world is exactly that, you’re not going to be in Kansas any more) it pays to talk to people who know something about distributing Ubuntu to home users.

        Step one. Disable upgrades in the software sources dialog. If customers want to upgrade, let them come in and you can sit down and test the new release first and decide if it’s working and worth it.

        Allowing your customers to upgrade their systems from winxp to win7 would be foolish, allowing them to upgrade their ubuntu installs (no matter how easy) is equally as foolish.

        • Don’t bother even with SECURITY updates, because we all know Linux can’t be infected (Total BS, many a Linux server has been pwned and you might want to look up the KDELook screensaver bug from not too long ago) and "Use Distro X"?

          You see THIS, this right here, is why NOBODY takes Linux seriously as a desktop. Nobody. this is why you can’t get it in walmart, or Staples, or Best Buy, because the answer is ALWAYS "Use distro X" where X is whatever distro you did NOT use. If I would have said PCLOS (which BTW I did try as well as Ubuntu, along with Mepis, same crap different name) you would have said "Well that’s your problem! you should have used Distro X!"

          Look you want 100% undeniable proof Linux is broken? Ask yourself this…why does Dell have to run their own repos? I’ll tell you why, and if I could figure out how to post links I’d send you the article from the reg, it is because if they don’t then THE DRIVERS BREAK.

          You want to know the problem? here goes although I don’t know why I bother. In 1993 Linus Torvalds decided he didn’t like hardware ABIs. Now here it is 2011, and EVERYONE ELSE has them, from Solaris to BSD, from OSX to Windows, hell even OS/2 has them, but will Torvalds admit he was wrong? NOPE, he would rather cause everyone else pain and hinder adoption rather than eat that humble pie and admit he was wrong. If he wasn’t wrong, why does everyone else, every single OS of ANY consequence, have a standard ABI? Because without them drivers fall down and go BOOM maybe?

          Because if your answer is to not allow updates, in this age of malware and zero days, frankly you have been drinking the koolaid. NO machine should be run without updates, this is security 101. The fact that your OS is such a house of cards that you honestly think not updating is a good thing? kinda proves my point friend. There is a good reason why NO major B&M stores carry Linux boxes, not one, it is because Linux is a nightmare to support with the broken driver model. it is 2011, not 1993. if Torvalds won’t man up and admit he was wrong and give Linux what everyone else has had for a fricking decade? Well then maybe like old Bill it is time for him to retire.

          Because you NEED retailers like me to sell and service your product and get it into the hands of middle America, but as it is we wouldn’t touch it with a 50 foot pole. In the end it all comes down to the drivers. And I’m sorry you had a problem with Windows (what that has to do with this discussion I don’t know) but you are sadly delusional if you think your experience is anywhere close to the norm. For a good 90%+ of the public Windows "just works" and for retailers like me it is a hell of a lot more hassle free than Linux. I install updates, install AV, that’s it. With Ubuntu, Mepis, PCLOS, it was install, try to update…ooops! OS fall down and go BOOM! if I can’t even allow security updates and have to leave my customers on old software and hope it doesn’t get exploited? Then frankly your OS is unsuitable for purpose, full stop. Sorry.

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