What Tweaks Could Make Linux Even Better?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes, and it goes without saying that those of us in the Linux community see plenty of it in our favorite operating system.

Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard to wrap our brains around the topic of a recent poll on TuxRadar entitled, “What would you change about Linux?”

At first, Linux Girl’s mind drew a huge blank. Then she read on.

“If you had the resources, what single thing would you change?” the daring minds behind the site asked. “Would you merge KDE and Gnome? Would you introduce a new package manager? (eek!) Would you find all mentions of ‘Linux’ and replace it with GNU/Linux?”

Following that explanation, bloggers — as is their wont — had no shortage of thoughts to share.

‘Remember Those Monkeys’

“If I could change just one thing it would be to do away with all the petty bickering and in-fighting,” dazfuller wrote, for example. “For a community who values choice so highly we really do turn into a bunch of whiny gits when people do things a different way.

“Remember those monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey,” dazfuller added. “That’s kind of what the mono debate feels like right now.”

Alternatively, “I would force all mainstream Linux distributions to use a GUI,” offered Xavier Sythe.

Then again: “There has to be a way to motivate game manufacturers to produce Linux versions of their products,” tarpan suggested. “I think this alone would immensely increase Linux’s popularity.”

Close to 100 comments, in fact, had been made by Wednesday, so Linux Girl knew it was worth bringing the topic to the beer-coated table down at the blogosphere’s seedy Broken Windows Lounge.

‘Become a Platform’

“One distro needs to step up and become a _platform_,” Slashdot blogger Daengbo told Linux Girl.

“New developers need support,” he explained. “Choose a language for them; choose a toolkit and an IDE; optimize the IDE for the chosen language and the standard distro components, which should be comprehensive by default.”

Similarly, “write comprehensive documentation (and create videos) using this tool chain and keep the documentation current,” Daengbo added. “Make publishing and charging for applications easy for developers without the need to learn a bunch of packaging formats or dependencies.”

In short, “the distro that does ‘platform’ well and which is merely competitive with other distros will rush to the front of the pack,” he predicted. “Compare the new developer pages of Windows, OS X and Ubuntu, and you’ll see a marked difference in friendliness for devs new to the platform.”

More Support for Linux

On the other hand, “there’s really nothing major I can think of that needs to be changed to Linux as a platform,” Foogazi blogger Adam Kane began. “The real changes need to happen at the hardware and software manufacturers’ level.”

Specifically, “if more ‘popular’ software was designed for or ported to Linux, there really would be no end to how much more Linux could grow,” Kane explained. “Sure, there are always alternatives, or emulations of software, but in the end, corporations and businesses want what ‘everyone else is using’ because of a proven track record.”

The same goes for hardware, he added.

“Linux is designed to support anything and everything,” Kane concluded. “It’s the ‘anythings’ and ‘everythings’ that need to support Linux.”

‘Full Support for Flash’

Similarly, “what would *I* change? Not much — I’m a happy user,” began Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“Now, about what I would change that runs atop linux — that’s another story,” Hudson added.

“No. 1 would be full support for developing flash apps under linux,” she explained. “We have Apple to thank for showing us that. Yes, Actionscript sucks; yes, flash is an eyesore — but it’s cross-platform, it’s popular and it’s less hassle than Java.”

‘Native Screen Widgets, Please!’

No. 2 on Hudson’s list: “a port of the original BC++ 3.1 ide for developing console apps, and a true native (not that Kylix Krap) Borland c++/delphi IDE for gui development,” she said.

“No. 3 would be to fix openoffice and firefox so that they use the native ui, and not their own customized ‘one look for all platforms’ widgets,'” while No. 4 would be “to fix openoffice so it doesn’t take 30 seconds between the time I click on ‘Save As’ and when I can actually type a new file name in.”

Finally, “No. 5 would be to fix the gimp to get rid of the Win95 gray look,” Hudson concluded. “Again, use native screen widgets, please!”

‘A Help Me! Button’

Alternatively, “lose the CLI” was Slashdot blogger hairyfeet’s top suggestion. “It is 2010, not 1978 — entire generations have grown up NEVER touching CLI, and you know what? They will NOT change for you! Accept it!”

If nothing else, there should be a “Help Me!” button “where a Linux Guru can walk a new user through a problem,” hairyfeet added. “Until I see some real effort to fix this horrible mess, like a GUI-based way to deal with driver issues and a stable driver ABI that allows one to run updates without breaking half the hardware drivers, I stand by my assertion… Linux is great for servers and embedded devices and horrible for desktops!”

Then again, “I would change the software that tends to get left behind when interfaces change,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack suggested. “We are great at creating new, better-performing interfaces but poor at making sure everything uses them.

“I can understand needing compat options enabled in the kernel for 3-year-old software, but I can’t understand why I need them for things actively maintained,” Mack explained.

‘GNU/Linux Is a Living Thing’

Blogger Robert Pogson took perhaps the most philosophical view of all.

“GNU/Linux is a living thing,” he asserted. “It grows, changes and adapts. I don’t need to do anything to keep that happening, but my life will be better and more satisfying if I contribute what I can to keep the fire going: teaching, installing, debugging, documenting and promoting.”

Change is good, Pogson added, “and I welcome it even as I near retirement.

“Being able to change keeps organizations relevant and enhances survivability,” he explained. “The rate of change being higher with FLOSS probably means FLOSS will outlive less vibrant systems of IT, like that other OS.”


  • As a new Ubuntu/Mint user of about a year, I am greatly impressed by most of the working bits.

    The one exception is File sharing across a home network, the bug is passed from team to team, with no resolution. Sure I can get in there & fuss around with configurations in terminal :C

    is a simple right click GUI solution too much to ask?

    • Installing giver or empathy are good workarounds.

      I wish the bug in nautilus would be fixed for good (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t), but giver and empathy always work when you want to send files across your network. And they are more user friendly too.

  • The 90s called and they want their troll back. Ubuntu has a nice point and click interface for installing proprietary drivers such as NVIDIA’s Video drivers. Also see Microsoft’s Powershell on why users are demanding a better CLI on MS Windows and Microsoft is delivering.

    • I have to call FUD there pal. You know how many Powershell installs I’ve seen, in over 10 YEARS of working SMB and SOHO? None. Zip, zero, nada, squat. Powershell is a SERVER tech, we are talking DESKTOPS. Why Linux guys can’t tell the difference between the two is beyond me. Servers are a little niche, staffed by trained professionals, desktops are a massive market controlled by people like your Aunt Sue, okay? Different markets.

      Second allow me to say, and I so rarely get to use this in a sentence…WHOOSH…way to miss the point! Nobody said ANYTHING about proprietary drivers, go back and re-read for yourself. We are talking about what happens when there is NO driver for a device. In Windows 7 there is a little pop up that says "Would you like me to find a driver for you?" and when you click yes it goes to the net, if the device is less than 5 years old it WILL find a driver, download it, and install it. It is soooo simple my 67 year old dad installed Win7 HP by himself.

      Compare to Linux: No driver? Trawl forums, hope you know what hardware you are looking for BTW, try to find a "fix", tweak said fix because it was designed for hardware A, Rev B and you have Rev F hardware C (like ANY user will know this or be able to do this), put all this crud into Bash, and then pray to RMS.

      I stand 100% by my statement. Instead of more bling bling Linux developers need to make user experience job #1. As it is now it is frankly a mess. Oh and check out the new Dell Ubuntu machines, notice anything…strange? Notice how the Canonical repos have been…REMOVED? Know why that is, because I do? It is because if you dare to actually use the repos, on a fricking Canonical supported OEM machine, it breaks the network and sound!

      Now what are the odds that normal people have a chance when fricking Dell can’t even get Canonical to do decent QA on the products they support? I rest my case.

      • I’m shocked you have never seen the XP interface fail because I have seen it blow up on some sound and some video cards(recent hardware). But in all fairness Win 7 does better.

        Also, unless your dealing with idiot companies such as Broadcom, there are no reasons to be editing kernel drivers to make XX hardware work. Most of the time when that happens the hardware maker has chosen not to support Linux and has either forced Linux devs to reverse engineer the Windows Driver or decided to provide some ugly driver on their own that they probably didn’t test and won’t ever let you see the source for.

        In the Broadcom wireless case I took one look at their insane instructions and just gave up and ripped the wireless card out of it’s socket under the keyboard and replaced it with a $15 card I ordered on ebay. If the companies I deal with don’t properly support Linux I won’t bother dealing with them the same way I don’t bother with hardware on Windows that makes me jump through hoops on Windows(yes they happen).

        It’s NVIDIA and ATI already provide good examples of how to properly support a proprietary driver so they have a nice choice integrate with the kernel or make a point and click interface.

        It’s not Linux’ fault if they chose to do neither.

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