Still waiting for Linux to get ready

Posted on:December 12 2006

I am using Linux on the Desktop now for about 7 years. I'm not a Linux person, my favorite operating system still is Windows (explained in various blog entries already), as can be seen for example by the poor maintained Linux backends of software written by me (fortunately some other nice talented people are now doing this for me). From time to time I am upgrading to a new Linux version/distribution and last week, I made my computer happy by installing Ubuntu because it seems to be popular currently. I've heard 'Ubuntu' is an ancient African word meaning "I can't configure Debian" which IMO is transferable to "I'm too lazy to configure Debian" and so I thought I could give it a try. :) And what to say: It's really nice, looks clean, boots quite fast, installing was easy. But unfortunately there is no chance that I'm ever going to make it my primary operating system or even recommend it to other people. Why?
Although you should expect the opposite, it still isn't able to be usable out of the box. It looks like if you are using an ATI graphics adapter for example, you are stuck with a non accelerated display, which is simply not usable for real work. (Especially if you are programming 3D graphics, of course.) Even moving a window takes ages. There is however, a way to get a better driver from ATI, but to use it, you have to manually rewrite configuration files and other stuff like this and I think I've spent already too much time doing this with older Linux versions, making my hardware freeze, destroying my window managers and more. What century do we live in after all? Is it not reasonable to expect a simple, graphical frontend to configure ones system in 2006? Or to have an operating system which simply is usable after installing it? Of about a dozen different linux versions and distributions I've used, only one was capable of doing this (Mandrake) until now. And that's really a pity. Do you still wonder why Linux isn't getting a bigger market share for average users?
Ouch, this has become a bit longer now. Originally I wanted to write something Irrlicht related together with this. Next time then. :)


If ATI cared about drivers for anything except Windows being available then maybe the situation would be different, but as it is only nVidia and Intel have done anything (with nVidia still being paranoid about giving away anything at all).
2006-12-12 19:42:00

Aah yes, the driver thing is exactly why I've never quite taken the time to learn Linux..
One last thing one might try tho, is this new dist one of my friends recommended me the other day - PCLinuxOS ( ) ! I haven't tried it out myself, but he speaks very fondly of it. He mention the extreme userfriendlyness and the fact that you can even download livecds with the ATI and NVidia driver already on there.
Maybe you should give it a try.
2006-12-12 20:54:00

May I recommend Mac OS X instead? : )
2006-12-12 21:22:00

Still waiting for MS Paint to get ready... Till that glorious day, i'll continue to use Zenwalk Linux as my only OS... :)
2006-12-12 22:00:00

I have always used debian(or ubuntu) + ati(nvidia before) and acceleration always worked. For ATI + ubuntu:
apt-get install xorg-driver-fglrx
apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-your_kernel_version
Videocard memory address is in kernel space, so the latter contain a kernel module that talks with the video card (inb/outb).
The first instead is some user space code (managed by X) that talks to the kernel module through a programming interface called DRI
(direct rendering interface). Whatever distribution you choose it's
always the same, something is user-space and something in kernel-space.
Hope this helps.
2006-12-12 23:57:00

stef_ I think you hit on exactly what Niko was talking about. No one is going to use Linux as long as they have to go thorough all that just to get things to work like they should out of the box.
2006-12-13 00:36:00

Hmm, if I recall correctly, I had to install my latest ATI and NVidia drivers under Windows as well. Even though there were some updates through the usual windows mechanisms it does not really get you to the edge. So why would I want to download 80 MB of Windows drivers and go through a lenghty install session if I can do the same with a short one liner on the shell (with only about 10MB downloads). And if you have a slightly older card you will in most cases get the 3d acceleration without any additional drivers. And some Linux distributions also have a colored icon for proprietary driver installs, just as you like.
2006-12-13 09:16:00

I have to agree with hybrid there.
I installed my computer completely last weekend. Backuped everything on Friday and started with 2 complete empty harddrives for windows and linux. So I first installed Windows XP as it is still unable (hey we live in 2006 and we use dualbootsystems for years now) to let the user choose if he wants to overwrite MBR or perhaps want to add other bootpossibilities.) and made it ready for (3d) programming again (downloading and installing codeblocks + visualc++ compiler and gcc, downloading nvidiadrivers and so on)
Than I installed Unbuntu 6.06 this time as I wanted to test it. again with codeblocks + gcc and those libs I need to compile 3d stuff + nvidia drivers.
It took around the same time to install both. I must admit, that I needed to change my xorg config to get dualscreen running (4 lines, that took inclusive opening a browser and visit ubuntuusers website for copying the 4 lines) around the same time as it took to enable dualscreen on windows.
You are right, rightclicking the desktop and clicking some buttons is alot easier than editing the config your own, and knowing what to get from distributors server is harder than visiting nvidia homepage and click download drivers, and it would take alot longer if you are not used to edit xorg configurations or if you don't know what packages you need. I am using both OS for some years now and I cannot understand why desktopdistributions like ubunto still use this ugly textmode installer and don't come with a standard/expert button at the beginning. Knoppix for example shows us that hardwaredetection is done easily and a configuretool for Xfree or xorg that writes down the correct values to xorg.conf after you enabled the correct screen cannot be so hard to implement. well its opensource, perhaps we should start to write one :p
2006-12-13 09:48:00

Imho Ubuntu's way of installing standard software (as in most other distros as well) is already much better than on Windows: You don't need to download every application from a different place, you have all of them withn one package manager, and all get updated automatically... it's faster for most users to install things like drivers manually and then let the system install your software.

BTW: Ubuntu isn't using the textmode installer any more by default: They integrated it into the live cd. I think the previous installer was better...
2006-12-13 16:40:00

hmm, was using the 6.06 (stable I think) CD Image
2006-12-14 09:38:00

Well, i use suse oss 10.1 32 bit version, without any problems startet the ati x11 installer, then the ati-config --intial, and thats it ;)
2006-12-14 20:33:00

I've found Linux desktop distros to be highly variable. Easiest one I've used is SuSE by far - Ubuntu pretended to be easy but many aspects were a pain in the ass, such as the default hardware detection totally f***ing up the xorg file and leaving you with total garbage after the login screen unless you switched to a console and manually edited the config file. Hmm, really friendly - not.

Until desktop Linux can avoid the 'ah but' clauses that go with just about every set of setup instructions, it's going to remain a niche. I'm a developer and consider myself to be technically proficient but I still haven't found a distro I universally like on the desktop. There's always gotchas and manual hacks needed, version compatibilities and upgrade issues of various types (crossing gcc or kernel versions etc) long term. Nothing really major individually, but each thing just wastes a little bit of time and it all adds up. I also hate the inconsistencies of apps designed for one or other of Gnome / KDE. To be honest, after years of playing I don't really have time to fart around anymore. I'll use Linux on servers without a second thought (because it's great), and I like the _idea_ of Linux on the desktop (and many individual applications), but there's just too many little ideosyncracies and things that waste my time to make it worth using every day. It's like a kit car which needs tinkering with every weekend - great if you've got time to play with it, and like tweaking and customising and refining, but can be rather unproductive if you just want to get in and GO somewhere quickly. Since that's what most people want to do, it's unsurprising desktop Linux hasn't taken off.
2006-12-14 21:57:00

I'd been using Ubuntu for about one month, but was unsatisfied with the config files, which aren't as standard conform as I hoped, and the software management. The latter lacks of certain features as semi-automatic config file upgrading and above all flexibility. There isn't anything to configure when installing packages!
Also, there aren't really manny packages available, even with all the repository servers I found added.

I searched a lot and finally found Sabayon. It's based on Gentoo, thus uses the Portage package management (which is imho the prettiest out there) and has nearly everything pre-installed. Even 3d-acceleration drivers for nvidia and ati (with xgl :-) ).

Short: A great, but actually complex system, which is greatly simplified by the pre-installations and configurations.

You should give it a try.
2006-12-14 23:06:00

If only they made it less complex like windows, and a plug and play OS, it wud be awesome!
Rapchik Programm
2006-12-15 05:59:00

"and a plug and play OS"
You really think Windows is a simple and plug and play OS ? Excuse me but when I want to retrieve my photos from the camera, or when I want to use my printer on Ubuntu... I don't have to search the drivers CD everywhere.
The only stuff that isn't working on Linux are the ones whose vendor refused to give the specs, whereas nothing basically works on Windows.

IMO, the only big problem with Ubuntu are the latest ATI drivers which are never installed on the system (always an old version, even in Edgy)... Thus you must generated packages by yourself...
2006-12-15 08:35:00

Of course installing new drivers isn't as easy as in Windows yet, but it is much easier than a few years before. I have a notebook with an ATI video card running Ubuntu, and needed only a few minutes to install it. Unfortunately the drivers are quite bad, but they provide hardware acceleration. Let's hope they will improve the linux drivers in the future...
2007-01-01 14:54:00

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