Kasperian Moving Parts

kinda like batman, but with a wife and 3 kids

Why Isn’t Desktop Linux “There” Yet?

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It’s a shame that my first blog post in months is something so antithetical to my normal posts as this, but 1) I haven’t blogged in forever (darned Twitter/Identi.ca/Facebook!!!) and 2) I just bought a MacBook Pro and am really happy with it thus far. So bear with me. Or don’t. I don’t care. If you’re in the mood for a good rant or are bored beyond belief or want to hear about how to get Ubuntu Karmic installed on a MacBook Pro (system 5,5), stick around. Otherwise, I’ll understand.

So, I’ve realized that I need to buy a personal laptop for a while now but have been putting it off because it’s expensive and a big ordeal. I don’t do anything that involves money quickly or lightly, so kicking down a big wad o’ cash for a laptop is not something that I can just do whenever I feel like it. For the last few months, I’ve been agonizing over what I should get and researching and pricing and comparing. I knew that I wanted something that stood out and looked good and felt good and was well-built. I’ve been using ThinkPads as my main laptop for the last decade or so, since it’s what my employers have provided me, and while they’re sturdy as heck and are well built and last forever, they’re not really all that sexy. I wanted sexy.

I also knew that I wanted some nice features that Apple provides stock that most of the other guys do not. Such as a backlit laptop keyboard. I was playing around with the idea of getting a Dell E6500, but 1) not horribly sexy and 2) that requires me to get a 15″ screen. Which is another thing I wanted… to not feel like I’m lugging around an Encyclopedia every time I take my laptop with me somewhere. For the last couple of months, I’ve been using an Asus Eee PC 1005HA netbook for this reason and while I absolutely loved the battery life on the little guy and the portability, the absolutely diminutive screen size is what finally did me in. Well, that and the horribly slow CPU. And the horribly slow GPU. And the really small keyboard size. And the fact that it doesn’t have an optical drive. And the crappy ath9k wifi drivers that keep disconnecting.

So I bought a Mac. Spent a bunch of time before then reading up on whether the MacBook Pros can play nicely with Linux (model 5,5 is what I ended up getting), and felt pretty comfortable that a MBP could be a really nice Linux machine. After waffling and being generally unsure of which one I wanted to get, I finally decided on a 13″ 2.26 Ghz MBP. I knew I wanted a smaller screen size than my previous PowerBook of 15″ and my current work laptop which also has a 15″ screen. So 13″ fits the bill nicely. I was really unsure about the CPU and was really hesitant to get a 2.26 Ghz CPU in the MBP, thinking that it’d be not all that much faster than the T7500  @ 2.20GHz Core 2 Duo I have in my work Thinkpad, but as it turns out, the 2.26 Ghz CPU in the MBP is really nice and fast–feels faster than the Thinkpad. Also, upgraded the RAM from 2 GB to 4 GB and I left the 160 GB drive in, planning on replacing it with a 250 GB 7200 HDD that I already have or maybe even a SSD if they ever get cheap enough.

I spent probably 6 hours or so on Sunday night getting Linux installed onto my shiny new MBP. Installing Linux was the easy part. Getting rEFIT to recognize it and boot into it was something completely else. Turns out that rEFIT does not play nicely at ALL with Grub2 (which is what Ubuntu Karmic comes with), so one of the things I did at the end that got it to work nicely was to boot off the live CD, install Karmic, chroot into my newly installed Karmic partition, uninstall Grub2, install Grub 0.97, and that seemed to do the trick nicely. The other hiccups I had were around getting the MBP’s drive partitioned in a way that OS X and rEFIT could deal with. I ended up resizing the main OS X partition and creating MS-DOS partitions from inside OS X’s disk utility and then just formatted them from the Ubuntu Karmic install process. But now I have a really nicely working OS X and Ubuntu Karmic dual-boot MacBook Pro. I realize my details are pretty sketchy here, so if you’re interested in more details, let me know and I’ll provide more info.

Since my day job allows me to write code for Linux (and don’t get me wrong, this is the best job I have EVER had and have never been happier), I occasionally need to use Skype to teleconference into meetings. And at least five times over the last 2 days, right in the middle of a Skype meeting from my Ubuntu Jaunty Linux laptop, things totally stop working. Sometimes the audio stops working entirely and I can’t hear the people on the other end anymore. Sometimes the video freezes. Sometimes Skype totally locks up the USB webcam and I have to kill -9 it and unplug/replug the webcam. Sometimes I can’t even see video on it at all and all I can see is a black box. Sometimes, it even works as it should and I don’t have problems (but those times are rather few and far between).

So, here’s my rant. I’m sick and tired of this crap in Linux. I have been a VERY vocal proponent of Linux everywhere for more than a decade. I’ve pushed it in every company I’ve worked for. I’ve insisted on using it everywhere personally. I have been searching for a job that would let me actually program on and for Linux for a long time and I now have one (YAY!). But I am absolutely exhausted of things that work on other platforms being unreliable, crappy, non-performant, crash-prone, and in general totally second rate or worse in Linux. In this particular instance, I unplugged my USB webcam from my Linux Thinkpad, plugged it into my new MacBook Pro, installed Skype and was up and running in no time. Skype did not crash, hang, hiccup, freeze, mutilate, spindle, or in any other way be anything other than an awesome application in OS X. And, as an aside, just looking through the preferences section for Skype showed that it was obviously given more love and care than the Linux version. And ya know what? I’m tired of it. I’m tired of even having to think about it. I’m tired of having to apologize for stupid stuff like this, get to a shell and killall -9 it. Or try to figure out what stupidity is causing it to happen. Or try to find workarounds so that PulseAudio can not screw things up for me. Or have to check my xorg.conf to see if I might have enabled something that is causing the bizarre Xv errors Skype spews every once in a while. I’m just tired of it.

Now, the focus of my frustration in this case is Skype. And I know that without even a moment’s hesitation, 90% of you are going to say “oh well, see, that’s what you get when you used a closed-source application! just use Open Source and everything will be better!” And to that I say: bollocks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Open Source advocate than me. But that’s not the point here. And that’s not the true issue at hand here. Open Source is great. Open Source is cool. Open Source is a whole heck of a lot of fun. Open Source is the answer to a whole lot of problems! But of this I am absolutely certain: it is not the answer to this problem. In this particular instance, and in millions more like it, all across the world, every day, people are going to need to run software that IS NOT OPEN SOURCE. You can try all you want to create the best, most awesome Open Source project to meet a given need, but you will never 100% fill every closed-source software solution need. You might get close. You might even have something that is “good enough”. But the bottom line is that there’s always going to be some piece of software that you have to run that you don’t have the source for. At least, this is true in the world that I’ve lived in for the last decade+.

Now, I am very aware that the Linux Desktop is SO much better than it was even 5 years ago. We have eye candy up the wahzoo. We even have some better applications from commercial companies. Heck, we even had the awesome World of Goo game (which I actually paid money for and LOVE)! We have much more feature-rich FOSS applications and desktop environments than we’ve ever had before. But what we don’t have is a stable platform that companies can count on being able to invest into and reap monetary rewards from. Yeah, like it or not, this is the real world and companies have to make money to stay in business.

We are a bunch of hackers. We love to tinker, to fiddle, to break compatibility in a heartbeat just for the outside chance that it might be better, to change quickly, and to do whatever we feel like. And that’s all fantastic stuff. But at the end of the day, we’re our own worst enemies. What makes Desktop Linux so awesome and fun and cool and quickly evolving is the same thing that keeps companies from investing in us–and even when they do, we end up breaking their stuff and causing Linux Desktop users grief. And we show absolutely zero possibility that this is going to improve any time soon. PulseAudio? Really? I’m so glad it’s the new hotness and is technically awesome. Your new hotness just broke an app I absolutely have to rely on. Guess how much I give a crap about your new hotness now, hm?

Anyway, I don’t have a solution to this. All I know is that I’m really liking my MacBook Pro, and I’m really liking OS X. Is it free? No. Is it Open Source? No. But does it just stinking work? Yeah, it really does. And it is such a drastic and refreshing change from the world of Desktop Linux that I am seriously wondering if I’m going to ever end up using that Ubuntu Karmic install I just slapped on the other partitions of this drive. I don’t think I’m yet ready to send out a jwz-like dissertation and farewell address, but I totally get it now. OS X is beautiful, and it just works. And I don’t think I’ll ridicule anyone for getting an Apple computer and actually using OS X on it ever again. Windows is still another story, but even there I can see what the allure is. You know… you get a computer to do stuff, and you want it to work. You don’t care what it has to do so that it works. You just want it to stinking work. Wouldn’t it be nice if Desktop Linux was like that?

[ UPDATE - 2009-11-20 ] – I’ve received a lot of really great comments on this post, but my initial intent at 1) venting/ranting, 2) comparing Desktop Linux to OS X, and 3) raising issues that I think we need to take a hard look at as a worldwide community were taken in a very different slant than I intended. FWIW, after having spent a week with my shiny little MacBook Pro, I am happily running Ubuntu Karmic 9.10 on it and have blogged again in an attempt to clear up some of the muddiness around this first post. To this end, I’m going to change the title from “I think I’m tired of Desktop Linux” to something less vitriolic for future viewers. And hopefully this won’t cause aggregators/planets to re-publish this. =:/

Author: Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper

My name is Jason 'vanRijn' Kasper. I am the ring leader of the amazing Kasper family. I am unashamedly a Christian Geek. These are our stories....

128 Comments

  1. Interestingly I have been talking to the producers of the Open Musician Podcast http://opensourcemusician.libsyn.com/

    The two guys who do this are in seperate locations and have been using skype skype via the alsa->jack plugin to record their shows. The sound quality in my opinion has risen significantly since they started doing this. The shows are over an hour and I don’t think significantly edited… It appears that this setup is working well. Having said that I believe that they are both using professional quality sound hardware which may contribute to stability.

  2. @Pawel

    “I find your posts very funny. You’re completely missing the points and what you write is just your subjective feeling (or looking at things from OS X fanboy perspective).”

    Just because I prefer OS X does not mean that I’m a “fanboy”. And I could say that what you write is just from your subjective viewpoint as well. So what makes your opinion better than my opinion?

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. Afak it supports it since years. You’re ‘really’ a Linux expert.”

    I tried it a while ago (IIRC, early this year). There was a handy applet on the desktop that listed all the users and allowed me to switch between them. How did it work? When I selected an another user, it took me to the initial login-window, where I had to enter the username (why, I just selected the user from the list?!) and password. That’s not “fast user switching”, that’s just going back to the login-window and logging in as another user.

    Like I said: is that finally working like it should? Last time I tried it, it was broken.

    “It’s really hard to call OS X an Unix. It’s rather its parody.”

    Like it or not, OS X is fully certified UNIX. What exactly makes it a “parody”? Seriously? Instead of throwing around unsubstantiated claims, why not give some tangible examples?

  3. “About linux’ very poor closed source applications, I think you all know the reason for it. You can’t expect that such a small market (little more then %1? maybe 2-3% max?) gets much attention from those developers. Fot that we need to go… so , changing my opinion, we do need users and we do need to hear their critique so we can grow stronger and better.”

    The problem is not just closed source applications, the problem is the open source apps as well. They just lack the fit and finish I find in OS X-apps. True, some of those Linux-apps are VERY powerful, but that’s also their problem. They present so much functionality to the user, that the user is overwhelmed and is unable to accomplish anything. And all that power is presented in a “clumsy” way.

    The problem that Linux and it’s apps face is that many features are half-finished. Software is released with features that don’t work, or they work in sub-optimal way. Why is the software cluttered with features that don’t even work?

    Apple (and third-party Mac-developers to some extent as well) does the complete opposite. The amount of features in their software is lower, but the features that are there, are polished to mirror-shine, and they work like they should. As the software matures, features are added. And each added feature works.

    And market-share should not matter since individual apps might have similar amounts of resources available both on OS X and Linux. Like I said, Scrivener for OS X is developed by a single guy. It’s the classic case of “scratching an itch”, since he developed the tool to help in his novel-writing. How can a single part-time developer create an app like that on OS X, but I can’t see apps with similar ease of use and polish in Linux?

    It was already mentioned that desktop-Linux needs a Steve Jobs. In a way, Apple designs it’s products for Steve Jobs, and Jobs is an unrelenting perfectionist. He goes through the apps pixel by pixel, and if something is not perfect, he rejects it. Even if it was 90% perfect. That’s the complete opposite to how software is developed for Linux.

    Now, Linux-kernel does have that “alpha-user”: Linus Torvalds. And the kernel kicks ass. But desktop-Linux does not have that alpha-user. Is there anyone in the KDE-project (or GNOME for that matter) who can say “this isn’t good enough, rejected”? I don’t think so. And if there was, it might result in the developer quitting the project. There’s this “this is open source, if there’s a problem, fix it yourself!”-mentality going around.

  4. @Janne

    Its the release early release often issue.

    We have to do it, it’s what takes the movement forward at the pace it has. The side-effect is thousands of alpha or abandoned projects on source-forge.

    I do think that there is a culture of “I’ll polish / clean / fix / debug it later” in some projects. You just need to read the bug-reports for that. However, in many projects there is a healthy amount of controls that ensure quality releases.

    After reading much of this post, it seems to get the best setup one has to pick a previous release which has received enough patches & love to make it as close to perfect as it can. Also without the latest bleeding edge.

    Ubuntu Hardy, openSUSE 11, Mandriva 2009, etc, probably are rock-solid releases if you install them now and patch them.

    Unfortunately, I like having new kde4, so I’ll stick with current even beta releases and live with the rough edges.

    On a lighter note. When this thread started I was running Mandriva 2010. I’ve since move to openSUSE 11.2RC2 in preparation for their new release.

  5. @jason : just came across your blog and only wanted to say that i completely share your feeelings : i have been using linux for a long time now ( 20 years maybe?) but i don´t use it anymore as a desktop. The “desktop experience” in linuxworld sucks badly imo and it doesnt look like things are going to be better in the short term, which is really sad.

    cheers

  6. You stuck linux on a vendor who has LOCKED HARDWARE and you’re pissed that things don’t work? I think you’ve got to step back and get some perspective here…

  7. Hi, Jason, sorry to read that your experiences with audio in certain Linux distributions have been less than stellar.

    Two points that you may find useful:

    * A few of us heavily involved in audio development and integration plan to continue rolling PulseAudio updates for Karmic in the ubuntu-audio-dev PPA.

    * There is a wiki page (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DebuggingSoundProblems/KarmicCaveats) that contains instructions for including a verbose log for PA. Please file a bug report with this log attached and find me, David, or Luke on Freenode. (I can’t promise an immediate response. Only Luke is employed by Canonical.)

  8. Whoa, back to the world of the Mac.

    Congrats, sort of. As a lesser Linux/OSS geek, I understand the tension.

    I agree with you completely, though. OS X does provide the day-to-day stability that desktop Linux never has. In fact, my Kubuntu machine is kind of broken at the moment, and needs some loving I just don’t have time to give it…

    My personal suspicion is that the Linux world needs a combination of a distro dedicated to slow movement and quality, and a Steve Jobs. The Jobs character is only going to do any good if he’s actually in charge of a distro whose goal really is “Make it solid, reliable, user-friendly, dev-friendly, and don’t move too fast.”

    Everyone admits that OS X is a better experience for the end-user, but no one wants to do the work it takes to get there. The Jobs character needn’t be a programmer (Jobs really wasn’t) – he needs rigorous aesthetics, incredibly high quality standards, and final say over what’s in, and what’s out.

    It’d be hard to get such a person into the dominant position in a Linux distro – he’d be the guy everyone hated, because nothing new or sexy ever gets in.

    And yet, that’s precisely what they’d need.

    The only way I see it happening is if that wannabe Jobs could program enough to get UIs laid out and think through APIs carefully, and prototyped/released a somewhat innovative approach to desktop computing. If the basic core features for Linux geeks and normals were in place (email, writing, coding, browsing, word processing/layout, consuming multimedia), were actually an improvement on what we have, at least from a UI/workflow perspective, and if there was a good framework for expanding on it, some of the more idealistic devs might start playing with it. In such a scenario, as “the guy who started it”, our hypothetical Jobs-standin might retain control over the project.

    (Until the first fork, anyway.)

    Me, I just bounce back and forth between platforms, wishing someone would make the system I want. Unfortunately, so far, I don’t have the skill, time, or vision to do so. I know some of what I want, but I don’t have a coherent vision.

    Anyway, interesting post, and I’ll be curious to see how this foray into OS X-land goes.

  9. Hi Jason,
    very good article. My first Linux “Desktop” was running 1993, and i was quite happy in those days to have an OS running where i could code something like “… malloc(1024*1024);”. And there was no need to fight with something like DOS-extender, expanden-memory and so on.
    But the days changed, and not only Linux evolved. Windows has nowadays a very good OS and a great platform for open-source stuff. OSX seems to be the same – i do not know.
    And yes – i left Linux @home as default desktop system about 5 years ago. Why? Same reason: i was simply sick and tired of doing research why this and that wasn’t working. No sound within skype, the microphone didn’t work probably, the seconds monitor didn’t change the resoultion, the mobile-phone sync was done, but doubled all the entries (ok folks – great, therefor i got all the data in XML to modify it with XSLT). And i think i installed at least 2 distris per year – sometimes even more. Why? Well – that was the easiest way of getting the newest stuff running (KDE, Gnome, kernel…).
    Now i am running an XP box for more than 4 years – and it simply works. I don’t want to say that Windows is the better technical system. But it solves a lot of problems for people, who sometimes need the PC to work with, not to configure it.
    Regards

  10. I once more glance over the article and comments and I start to wonder whether we forgot the question “why”. Yes why do satisfied OSX users wish to see a Linux-OSX? If it’s just a question of price I doubt the sincerity, since it only would imply that these folks aren’t ready to support Linux financially. To duplicate another system doesn’t look very progressive, at least not in my eyes.

    Some short reflections in form of questions:

    – do you believe that Linux is fundamentally superior and hence the wish to get an OSX experience on top of the Linux kernel?

    – there is one Steve Jobs controlling a substantial part of the industry, do we really want one more Jobs?

    Another aspect of the matter is the answer to why we want Linux to get popular. Is it because:

    – we wish to rise the level of security among plain desktop users

    – we wish it to enforce the movement toward user friendly open media formats and get rid of ridiculous closed formats

    – we just like Linux, think it’s cool, and wish the world to become cooler

    – we want to put pressure on Microsoft to become less complacent and on Apple to not lock down their applications

    There must be some compelling reasons for why Linux should become popular on the desktop, especially since Linux pretty much to what it hard core users want it to do. Sure it sucks in some aspects, but for some it’s the system that already sucks less. I don’t believe in the childish stimuli “conquer the world! down with Micrsoft!”, because it’s not what encourages real technical progress, it’s a selfish easily fading emotion.

    The desktop people here mainly discuss is quite young and didn’t even have any project to talk about before 1996, and nothing stable before 1998-1999. I don’t know what one person here referred to by talking about being a Linux user for 20 years; that must be a real hard core Linux user! Mac OS became usable as a modern system about 2002-2003. The Windows window manager wasn’t particularity appealing, and many preferred the quite dull Windows 2000 classical for years after XP. XP, 2001-2006, had for modern computers terrible RAM management, extremely clumsy networking and appalling USB management. OSX was helped by a better Unix like foundation and looked down hardware concept. Windows was helped by third party drivers, that compensated for dumb incapable printers and cheap badly designed USB devices (I would say we all became ripped of by buying such stuff). With this I want to add some perspective to the discussion. Many of us aren’t that young, but we easily forget when certain things started to happen and how fast things are moving.

    So is the state of Linux that bad? This is tricky since the examples in the article we discuss isn’t what even make me think about a good desktop system. I know some do. Let’s put it this way: I know that I without any uncertainty installed Linux to my mother-in-law 2005. She’s computer illiterate , and she still have difficulties grasp fundamental routines. She has used Skype since then and a web-cam since the day Skype for Linux supported it. In this case you could call me the “Linux standard approval” guy. I’ve had web-cams and printers that have better performing drivers for Linux than for Windows. Interestingly this leads to an OSX-related conclusion: if you buy hardware as concious as Apple products Linux will work just fine. So while using the example of OSX does the article really support this idea all the way through?

    Within the Linux community you’ll also see a trend how many turn their back to typical desktop environments. Personally I can’t stand having to windows floating around all over the place, but prefer tiling window managers. I know what programs I use and as others I’m finding dmenu+yeganesh more intuitive than most alternatives. Don’t understand that as I’m looking down at Gnome or KDE, it’s just to illustrate that the current user base of Linux might not be so focused on the stuff many here discuss about OSX. You can always argue: why use some strange word processor when LaTeX still beats the pants off those applications, or why shouldn’t I use mutt? Don’t just respond “damn geek!”, no think about it: why do so many new Linux users slowly move out of the typical DE + its applications?

    My point here is that we shouldn’t get impatient. There are several questions we need to answer before knowing exactly what we want to see. Maybe and probably the kicking ass Linux desktop won’t look anything close to boring DE of today? The graphical interfaces being introduced by Sugar and now Moblin could open roads to something greater. If Moblin or another specialised netbook desktop will attract many more users, then I think some of these worries will fade. More users looking for what you look for will rise interest in taking charge of a desktop development more in the dictator style of Jobs. For some that could be very welcomed. Because of the demographic of the current Linux users I believe we’re not there yet, but when the time is right this could go really fast, much faster than anything Apple or Microsoft can produce.

    I hope you not interpret my responses as aggressive, vanRijn. It’s not my intention.

  11. @Rodrigo Rosenfeld Rosas , From the software part, I don’t think it worths investing on a Flash Player alternative because HTML 5 is near with native video support from browsers, that will probably work much better (what else Flash Player is useful for, by the way?)

    I don’t know what rock you have been living under, but Flash (or interactive, content driven technology used on web, namely, flash or silverlight) has become a rather important part of web, more so than even facebook, or twitter. Every new movie has a rather elaborate flash website. Our banks, credit card companies are using Flash more and more now. The only place that doesn’t use Flash is government’s, because they have to adapt to the lowest denominator in user client.

  12. Getting back to the core of your problem; I suggest you buy a Nokia n900 which has skype on it and has wifi and gsm.

    This frees up your main machine for a distro that is not-so-good with audio.

  13. @Thomas: How is that superior to just using OSX or Windows?

  14. === Further Thoughts on Desktop Linux ====

    === Commercial Software ===
    It so happens that I use commercial, closed source software that I (or my company) purchased on Linux on a daily basis. These are fairly technical pieces of software (one is a 3d modelling and animation tool, one a virtual piano and the third a commercial game engine). The only problem that was linux specific that I can remember was with sound and the game engine . I think though that in each case the company has been relatively small, interested and responsive to my requests and enquiries… I usually get an answer to my support request emails within hours.

    Autodesk Maya, Autodesk SoftImage, Apple Shake, Nuke3, SideFX Houdini are all commercial products that run under linux, some of these are industry leading products. It is quite interesting to look at what versions of which linux distros they are certified to run on. This will give you an idea of how larger companies deal with running their software on Linux.

    I took some time last night to revisit skype – Something that I like but has never been much use to me. My family stopped using it and my mother told me she saw some pornographic advertising on it, I haven’t questioned her further about it. Another person I asked to install it found that it locked up their computer completely (windows)… everybody else has not had a microphone or speakers properly set up (windows). We have used it at work successfully to talk with overseas partners however and I do see it’s use.

    The first thing I noticed was the lack of a 64bit version, this is 2009 and all the commercial software that my companies purchases (for windows mostly) is 64bit. Why not skype? It’s a resonably new codebase – surely the coders would have known how to produce portable software (it is a cross platform app after all)

    === Communications Software On Linux ===
    The issue with communication software is that it is uesd to communicate with other people. Most often those people live in the proprietory world and there are a lot more of them than us. I could dismiss Skype as being a piece of proprietary crap however Where is the open source program that is dead easy to set up, runs on Windows, Mac & Linux, and allows users to do voice and video chat. How hard is it find a program that will allow me to voice chat or even send files to someone who uses gtalk (or main communication tool at work) and gtalk is using, published and open protocols. Well at least aMsn works for video chat with MSN users – maybe empathy (I haven’t tried that yet). Kopete the official IM client needs a lot of developer love right at the moment..

    === Hardware Again ===
    One thing that has helped Linux hugely has been the advent of class drivers. We have these for many types of devices and the advantage of them is that on systems that have the class driver already installed there is no need to install additional drivers. This works for storage devices,some soundcards, midi devices, webcams, It’s worth noting that Apple has an AV class device that doesn’t exist anywhere else (well not entirely). Would it help in the long run to define extra class devices?

    The class compliant driver for webcams is UVC and this is something that is currently bugging me. The UVC driver only supports VIdeo4Linux2 and despite Video4Linux2 being out for many years now the majority of webcam apps only support Video4Linux1. This is very annoying – however if I was still mystly using my old webcam I would not even know that this was a problem.

    On the good side Linux seems to support old hardware longer than anybody else. Over the years I have been given quite a few items that have “Just worked” for me simply because the current version of windows no longer has drivers for them.

    === On Linux Needing a Steve Jobs ===
    A having a single, anal retentative & tyrannical figure in an opensource environment is a recipe for disaster. I have worked in more than one volunteer/community driven effort that had such a figure and it was hell (and the result was complete failure) remember that Linux the kernel is a single monolithic entity and Linus only does QC for his own tree.

    What we (as developers working on Linux desktop applications) need to do however, Is ask ourselves “what would Steve Jobs do here?”.

  15. @TurboWei, banks in Brazil use Java, not Flash/Silverlight.

    I watch movies on DVD-player or cinema and I never vist movies websites.

    Currently I only need flash to watch streaming videos.

    Flash-like technologies have a lot of issues. Accessibility is the main one for me. XHTML/HTML5 can be accessible to blind people, for instance. Flash-like technologies can’t as far as I know. Another issue is that, for my personal taste, flash animations slows down my navigation. I’m used to navigate on internet by clicking on links, searching for text, etc. Flash-based technologies break this flow showing animations I don’t want to see and inaccessible menus.

    I really don’t like/need Flash, except for streaming videos currently. But if people really want to use such kind of technology, it would be interesting to create an open standard where every one can discuss the future of the technology, what doesn’t happens with Adobe’s or Microsoft’s technologies.

  16. It goes back to usability: Linux covers 95% of all use cases 95% of the time (or add how many 9 you want after the decimal point). It’s not 100% usable because there are loose ends.

    I think the solution lies in extensive system testing for supported software packages. There is, of course, a huge number of configurations for the different packages in a distribution, but only a handful of configuration combos give optimum usability to users.

    Testing if different use cases work for these optimum combos would be a huge task, but it would be possible given a fair amount of automation.

  17. Installing Linux on a macbook is a waste of time.

    It’s called virtualbox.

    Use it. Know it.

  18. Yea Linux pretty much sucks on the desktop. On the server there are better options like OpenSolaris.

    I really didn’t expect this many people to use it on the desktop. It’s more of a hobby to me than anything else. Even when you get Linux configured to resemble something useful along comes an upgrade to break a working system.

    http://www.jfplayhouse.com/2009/11/zdnet-ignores-ubuntu-910-upgrade-fiasco.html

  19. Pingback: Having spent a few days with his MacBook Pro… - Kasperian Moving Parts

  20. Me again, I was just kidding in that last post. Of course, Linux rocks on the desktop and it kills all others in the server arena. The majority of the internet runs on Linux!

  21. Nothing rocks about having to compile software just to run it. Nothing rocks about having to recompile a driver after an update broke it.

    People have been talking pointing how Linux runs on servers for years.

    It doesn’t change the fact that Linux is a total mess on the desktop.

    You can’t blame the lack of proprietary apps on Linux’s low marketshare. The iphone had much better support from game developers when it had less than .01% of the market.

    Start by losing the anti-proprietary attitude. Then end the KDE/GNOME war and the multiple sound api problem.

    I doubt that will happen though since the Linux desktop has be held back by warring factions since the 90’s. The only thing these factions can agree on is that all software should be open source. That’s an unrealistic belief. The FOSS army hasn’t been able to provide enough alternatives to proprietary software. You can either deal with this reality or go back to your imaginationland where Gimp is as good as Photoshop.

  22. I read the blog post; Clearly there is some experience here. But the fact that you are hung up on Ath9k means you are probably unaware of the Ubuntu backports package and sort of qualifies your Debian/Ubuntu experience, regardless of pedigree and heritage.

    Skype is not great at packaging and distributing; There is no way to know what flavour of install path you took to get to your crash (32bit + ia32libs, pure 64bit). As our group are heavy users, I know that the current Skype from .debs actually says “Beta” in the title bar _ A note worth mentioning if you are going to be complaining about it crashing.

    You should be running Intrepid, not the recently released Karmic. Hardware support issues can’t be expected to stabilize so quickly _ you’ll need some knowledge to deal and resolve the issues on your own if you jump in that fast.

    Being a software developer doesn’t mean you can understand the package framework and problem solve effectively in the Debian package space _ Why no references to bugs tracked against your issues?

    All our developers now run Ubuntu desktops and they fall into two distinct groups. Normal and Power users.

    If you want hardware support and hardware stability for the desktop for business use, don’t jump into the latest release, unless you are willing to work with -proposed and do some debugging. Our team is split between those like yourself (focused more on the business aspects) running Intrepid, and those tweak-freaks that can manage their own hardware bugs, who have stepped forwards to Karmic and support the community actively in resolving current issues related to the new release.

    My advice, switch to Intrepid, and learn to love Karmic six monthes from now.

  23. Hey Ian. Actually, I’m very aware of backports and have tried using them with worse results than using compat-wireless directly. Good point about Skype. Shameful that they clearly just don’t care about Linux users. And again, I’ve been using and developing for Linux for more than a decade and I’m quite knowledgeable about dealing with and resolving issues on my own. It’s only very recently that ath9k has started to become usable and as https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/414560 shows, it’s buggy as hell.

    Um. What bugs would you like me to track? Against Skype? Not sure where you’re getting that.

    And… um… I’m not sure where you’re coming from saying I should switch to Intrepid. If I wanted to run something old, I’d use RedHat.

    Really confused about your comments, man… I don’t see how they’re relevant to my post.

  24. Sorry Kasper, did not mean to confuse you.. It just feels like you are complaining about mainly resolved issues.

    Also Intrepid IS old. I meant to say Jaunty, but the fact is I have a few guys running Intrepid just because it runs great, and they live with slightly worse Ath9k, which is usable via backports, but is far from ideal in terms of suspend resume and intermittent disconnects.

    I found your contributions on launchpad (https://bugs.edge.launchpad.net/~vr-movingparts) which is great.

    Our team, myself included, use the Ath9k. On Karmic, we now benefit from the 2.6.32 backports, which IMHO are great. We now run Skype video conferences wirelessly from our boardroom frequently. As recently as last Friday I participated for a few hours with Skype video over OpenVPN to the office. So for ath9k, I would say Karmic is the right choice, albeit a bit new and unstable in some respects. Stick to -proposed for the first few months.

    Your 5,5 system is good hardware; Known to be stable. You mentioned installing wireless-compat from tarballs. We have several identical laptops here, and instability issues historically in our experience can frequently be traced back to some of our team (with other Linux distro experience _ which poisons Debian best-practice frequently IMHO) who have installed VMWare, Virtualbox, ATI/NVidia, Skype, Netbeans from non_packaged sources. It is very difficult to get back into a stable evergreen state using “make uninstall” and “apt-get –reinstall” and there are no guarantees. You may want to try a fresh start with 64bit Karmic and stick to the .debs (including Skype 2.1beta) so that removal and upgrade/downgrade can be performed cleanly without introducing ongoing cruft and instability.

    Package management is what makes Debian based distros so advanced and stable. The concept of package maintainer is near impossible for the current Apple/MS distribution framework to adopt, and can’t be supported properly with closed source. If you truely never want to reinstall, you have to stick with it.

    What we have not focused on here are the really great things about Karmic that make it difficult to go back to the simpler Mac / Windows interfaces; On the desktop its all a bit new (but pretty and advanced), but the stability and reliability, and .deb package benefits are all well established in the backoffice. Not many people realize just how much larger the Debian base is than the Ubuntu base, both in users and contributors and until the community grows and the package policies mature there are going to be these post-release periods of instability.

    My advice is to stay positive, involved and excited about where the Linux space is going.

  25. Hi again Ian! =:) Thanks for the clarifications. =:) So, on the ath9k issues… The netbook which I was referring to is still using Jaunty. With the compat-wireless tarball I mentioned, things work just about perfectly and I’m happy. I was only mentioning this situation in my post as an example, perhaps unwisely, of the extra work Linux users have to go through compared with Windows or OS X. Not a big deal. =:)

    Thanks for the heads up on the new Skype beta version! I will definitely give this a look. The version of Skype that I’ve been using for a seemingly long time, which has given me a bunch of problems with pulseaudio is Skype 2.0.0.72-1. It would sure be great if the new version of Skype is addressing the issues that I mentioned in my post!

    And thanks for the advice on Karmic and using proposed. FWIW, I’m running Karmic on my MacBook Pro 5,5 and it runs absolutely flawlessly, after I got around the initial problems of rEFIT not being able to deal with GRUB2.

    Thanks again for the comments! Keep up the great work! =:)

  26. NP; BTW, at 2.0.0.72 there was no 64bit deb, hence the need for ia32libs and a few other packages with dpkg -f to make it work all from packages built against intrepid/jaunty. With 2.1, there are 64bit debs downloadable from skype that work with Karmic, however not integrated into Ubuntu Tweak with sources. Current is now 2.1.0.47.

  27. Im currently using Karmic and I must say im not the happiest with it. I have been searching high and low for a alternative and am going to try using OpenSUSE.

    Maybe its me but i dont mind spending the time to get things working but hate it when i get it working and for some reason the next bootup I have to try again.

    I helped a guy setup his MAC Book at work and i must agree with you OS-X realy sleak and it has a linux feel

  28. It is natural for Linux app to crash often. Linus Trovald prefer feature over correctness. An opposite of correctness over feature of BSD developers. BSD develop things slower than Linux’s, but in the end reliability win. Who want unstable OS that get slower on each release?

    Mac OSX is BSD based just because of reliability reason. My prediction is Google desktop OS will be as crash prone as other Linux.

    I install ubuntu in around 50 computer in office. I am using 6.06 because newer version break a lot of things. It is a good thing that OpenOffice can install even on old version. Unfortunately I have to use newer version on unfortunate new computer.

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