Distro hopping all the way back to Windows XP

This past week I have evaluated five Linux distributions to see if any of them would make suitable replacements for Windows XP so that I could avoid Vista. Sadly, Linux proved to be far more finicky and troublesome than I expected. Take it from me, if Windows XP is behaving itself, then don’t try to fix what ain’t broken; stick with what works!

It all started out on Boxing Day when I installed Kubuntu 7.10, which I chose because I prefer KDE, but also because of name recognition; I’ve heard good things about Ubuntu so Kubuntu must be good, too. Right? Wrong! Kubuntu is maintained by the community which means that it doesn’t get the proper care enjoyed by its progenitor. Here, then, is a run down of each distribution and why ultimately I’m sticking to Windows XP:

Kubuntu 7.10

Apart from the general impression that it’s Ubuntu’s unwanted step-child, Kubuntu (from what I can now remember; it was a week ago, afterall) had all sorts of issues (full write-up here):

  • The screen saver was broken and wouldn’t activate automatically (but previews were OK)
  • The back and forward buttons on my mouse in Konqueror actually scrolled left and right, instead of going back and forward in my history
  • Compiz was a bitch to get working (though, to Kubuntu’s credit, nowhere near as horrid as openSUSE 10.3 – see below). To change the theme in Emerald I had to send emerald a -SIGUSR1 switch in a terminal every time. The default themes were set so that inactive titlebars on windows were almost completely transparent, and trying to adjust the dozens of sliders in the Emerald theme manager to correct this was tedious.
  • The version of Kontact in Kubuntu wouldn’t respect the system-wide colour scheme – the default being far to bright with a very light off-white.
  • Adjusting the master sound volume had no effect on programs playing audio, not even if I selected the right channels. Perhaps this is due to the fact that sound systems in Linux are a dime a dozen so I guess KMix can’t control them all?
  • Since Kubuntu 7.10’s release I guess most developers are concentrating on KDE4 for Kubuntu 8.04. Speaking of which, I downloaded the KDE Four Live CD to check it out. In short: awful. The screen capture on that page shows enough, really. The taskbar is way to chunky and you can’t configure it (in this preview, anyway) and the only other major change is the addition of widgets to the desktop, which don’t excite me at all. KDE4 worries me in that a good desktop environment may end up becoming even worse than GNOME!

PCLinuxOS 2007

Probably the best of a bad bunch, but it has begun to let me down and after my experiences with other distros, my willingness to tolerate the finickyness of Linux has deteriorated considerably:

  • PCLOS, as it’s abbreviated, was one of the distros recommended in the comments to my Boxing Day linux post. Hearing that it’s a good KDE distro and after my brother’s interest was piqued by Compiz in Kubuntu, he downloaded an ISO.
  • We first installed it on my brother’s machine which uses a NVidia 8800GT video card. At first we couldn’t get the driver to work but with some help from the #pclinuxos-support IRC channel, we had eye-candy in no time.
  • Getting it to work with my ATI Radeon X300 video card was just as hassle-free. I was impressed.
  • It wouldn’t allow us to write to our NTFS partitions by default, though, and getting it to work wasn’t a walk in the park. It turns out that we had to install the ntfs-3g and ntfs-config packages (like a new user would have known that!). I don’t understand why read/write support to a user’s existing NTFS partitions isn’t enabled by default (like it was in Kubuntu; I don’t remember doing anything to get it working in that distro).
  • My PCLOS experience came to a crashing halt when I installed a few video players (not liking the ones on offer). I can’t remember which one I marked for removal but I discovered that Synaptic had completely fucked things up on my next reboot. All I got was a message box saying “Could not start kdeinit. Check your installation” and an emtpy X session where I could still spin my Beryl cube around. Eye-candy is nice and all but without any applications, what’s the point?
  • After three hours of brushing up my console survival skills (by installing lynx and irssi, the IRC client; I used to use bitchx or ircii many years ago, and it took a while to find even the name “irssi” because typing “sudo apt-get install ircii/bitchx” did nothing so I was scratching my head for a while). Anyway, the nice folks in the #kde channel eventually put it down to a missing libart_lgpl2 package, which I installed, and got X working again.
  • After this fiasco, I began to doubt PCLOS. An old friend always used to say that the RPM packaging system was evil and that DEB was better. Maybe he’s right because simply marking a few video players for uninstallation shouldn’t completely break your system like that.
  • (added on 11-Jan-2008) It seems that breaking kdeinit is an easy thing to do on PCLinuxOS: they even have an article at PCLinuxOS Magazine called Howto Repair kdeinit Problems for when you install a few too many programs and break your system. I don’t know about you but this whole dependency thing in Linux is supposed to prevent such breakages. If one thing requires an update, then everything depending on that update gets upgraded, and if one package doesn’t like that dependency, you’re supposed to be informed about it (much like openSUSE’s YaST will bitch constantly about dependency problems when installing ATI video drivers).

openSUSE 10.3

I decided to check out the latest release of openSUSE having tried 9.0 and 10.2 before (but not with a serious intention to use it as my main OS).

  • The installer offered to downloaded latest updates during the install, so I thought “why not?” and let it fetch the updates. After 10 minutes on my 1.5mb connection of seeing a hundred or more *.gz files download, I began to get the impression that maybe it was downloading the whole lot from the server again? I had just downloaded the ISO from my ISP’s mirror so I didn’t want it chewing up all my monthly quota.
  • So I rebooted and opted not to download the updates. When openSUSE finally installed I went in to the control center to add some repositories. Since my ISP mirrored them I added the local OSS and Non-OSS repositories, which turned out to be a huge mistake, evidently, because this caused me no end of grief in trying to get my ATI driver working for Compiz (opinion in the #suse IRC channel was that my ISP’s mirror was broken; very handy!). Another couple of hours troubleshooting on IRC wasted so I decided to re-install it again and let it do everything the way it wanted.
  • The openSUSE installer took forever! Well, maybe not forever but three hours, which seems like forever compared to the zippy installers for Kubuntu and PCLOS.
  • Into openSUSE for the second time and I decided to follow the instructions to the letter. Default repositories all round and a reading of the official instructions would be in order. I decided to read the page aptly named ATI. Good? Apparently not, as an argument ensued on the #suse channel as to which was the best method to install an ATI video driver (apart from the fact that ATI cards sucked and that I should have bought a NVidia card).
  • Somebody else suggested I follow these instructions by downloading an “ati.ymp” file that would take care of everything for me. This simply resulted in a big window full of dependency warnings.
  • Then somebody pipes in saying: See http://opensuse.org/ATI — i suggest NOT using ati-config and instead use SaX2 -r -m 0=fglrx
  • I then suggested downloading and installing the driver direct from ATI’s web site but this met with a great deal of scorn so I just gave up on openSUSE in the end. No operating system on the planet is worth this much of a headache!

Mandriva 2008

Mandriva was also recommended to me in the comments to my last post, so I downloaded the Mandriva Linux 2008 One KDE cd from my ISP’s mirror.

  • It refused to start X from the CD (either for live-cd perusal or to facilitate a complete installation). Not even with various combinations of acpi=off, noapic, nolapic, or vesa as kernel parameters would get X to work. I couldn’t Ctrl Alt Backspace out of X to run XFdrake to re-configure the video card, and neither could I Ctrl Alt F3 out to a TTY. I thought the disc was corrupt.
  • I decided to boot it off my home theater box connected to my plasma TV in the lounge room. It manages to boot successfully, detects the NVidia card, and allows me to enable Compiz with full eye-candy even more easily than PCLOS. It wouldn’t size the screen properly, but then again, it is a Samsung 42″ plasma with horizontal pixels and a native resolution of 1024×768, so I guess Mandriva could be cut a little slack on this issue.
  • The same CD boots fine off my sister-in-law’s PC which has an ATI Radeon X1300 video card, so I guess Mandriva 2008 just doesn’t like Radeon X300s. I should probably get a NVidia card, but Mandriva is out of the question for now, which is a pity because it looked good, and is the distro on which PCLOS is based, so it should be decent. I also hear from a lot of KDE fans that it’s a good choice if you like KDE.

Linux Mint 4.0

I was browsing through DistroWatch.com and came across a guy reviewing loads more distros than myself (full list of reviews at Adventures in Open Source). He rated Linux Mint very highly so my brother downloaded an ISO and dropped off a copy this morning.

  • The Live CD booted easily and the desktop loaded into what looked like a very polished GUI indeed. It was GNOME, so it was complete rubbish, but the work Linux Mint have done on the presentation and graphics side of things far outpaces anything Ubuntu are doing (brown is not a nice colour, and neither is orange!).
  • The install goes without hitch and a balloon appears near the bottom of the screen on first boot telling me that it is using a proprietary driver. Good, I say to myself. Compiz is going to be a walk in the park. Wrong.
  • I open the control center and take my time finding just where to configure the video card. There are lots of control center icons in Linux Mint and I think they could have halved the number and made each one have a few more tabs to group things better. Anyway, it says I’m using an ATI driver that lists mach, rage, etc. Clearly, it doesn’t look like a Radeon driver. I’ll choose Radeon instead. The applet wouldn’t let me choose Radeon for both (it’s a dual-head card so there’s a drop-down for each one; it doesn’t say which is the one I’m currently using). The other combo lists “fglrx” but no matter which option I choose, I end up with a very crappy resolution in X.
  • Clearly, the so-called “proprietary” driver offered by Linux Mint is crap, so I do the unthinkable. In my frustration, I download “ati-driver-installer-8.443.1-x86.x86_64.run” from ATI’s web site.
  • Given that Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and is completely compatible with the Ubuntu repositories, I decide to look at the unofficial wiki linked from ATI’s web site to see how to install it properly. The instructions for installing it the Ubuntu way look about as useless as any other method that uses an official repository, so I’ll try installing it manually, which looks about as nightmarish as the dreaded openSUSE instructions.
  • I finally decide I’ll just chmod 755 the installer and run it as root (which is basically what ATI recommend anyway, none of this re-packaging and editing config files nonsense!).
  • Lo and behold, and after asking #linuxmint how to enable Compiz, I have full eye-candy support. Beats the shit of any so-called “proprietary” driver offered through the usual repositories. Why re-invent the wheel and make things needlessly complicated when the driver offered by the video card manufacturer beats the pants of any rubbish offered by the distros themselves?
  • In the end, though, Linux Mint does use GNOME, which is far too Mac-like with it’s philosophy of hiding most configurable options from the user and forcing everybody into one mould. Even the default Xchat client, xchat-gnome, is a rebadging of Xchat but with many preference options stripped out, such that you can’t have channels as tabs along the bottom by default. Even if Linux Mint is nice in every other way, it uses GNOME, and their KDE version isn’t quite up-to-scratch, I believe.

SimplyMEPIS 7.0 (added on 7-Jan-2008)

With recommendations from bobber (comment #42) and Tom G (comment #46) saying that MEPIS is the perfect distro for people wanting a Debian-based distro and KDE, I decided to download the 64-bit version from my ISP’s extensive mirror to install on my Intel Q6600-based system:

  • The MEPIS docs say “Download all compiz packages from the Mepis repo via Synaptic. (Do a search on compiz)” so I mark everything matching “compiz” for installation. I then install python-ctypes like a good boy, then open the specified web page to download compizconfig-python. There are i386 and amd64 versions of that package so I ask #mepis and am advised: “do not use the amd 64 it differs to the intel 64” so I download the i386 version. When I try to install the i386 version it says “…package architecture (i386) does not match system (amd64)”. So, even though I install the “release 64” version of MEPIS, it’s really the AMD 64-bit version but which also works on Intel 64? How about just naming the packages “64” without AMD or Intel in the name? Wouldn’t that be less confusing?
  • I then try to install the amd64 version of the package and see, among other things, this message: “considering removing python-compizconfig in favour of compizconfig-python …” and “conflicting packages – not installing compizconfig-python”. It seems that when I was earlier directed to search for “compiz” and install all of those packages, I installed python-compizconfig without noticing, but the same instructions say I should install compizconfig-python, which seems to be one and the same thing. This is another thing that bugs the hell out of me about Linux distros: they’re forever renaming packages for no good reason, such that any online documentation becomes out of date thereby leading the user on a wild goose chase sorting out these unecessary problems.
  • I then have to install “ccsm” but Synaptic can’t find a package matching this name. Now I’m sure this really means compizconfig-settings-manager, so yet another bum-steer for new users. Nice going, MEPIS. There is no “fusion-icon” package in Synaptic so I download the amd64 package from the above URL. Trying to install it reveals this collection of lovely of errors:
      dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of fusion-icon:
       fusion-icon depends on compizconfig-python; however:
        Package compizconfig-python is not installed.
       fusion-icon depends on ccsm; however:
        Package ccsm is not installed.
  • So, I can only assume that some lunatic decided it would be nice to rename compizconfig-python to python-compizconfig such that further package installations now won’t work. Welcome to dependency hell. DLL hell in Windows is largely a thing of the past but dependency issues are about as annoying as I remember them even from last century!
  • An interesting observation: installing any package via Synaptic using the default, out-of-the-box, repositories, says “WARNING. You are about to install software that can’t be authenticated! Doing this could allow a malicious individual to damage or take control of your system”. So MEPIS doesn’t even trust it’s own maintainers?
  • Anyway, I decide to try clicking on the compiz fusion icon on the K menu just to see what happens and lost my window manager with the following error: “The application KWD (kde-window-decorator) crashed and caused the signal 11 (SIGSEGV)”. Not surprising, really, given the unresolvable package dependency nightmare above.
  • After rebooting I was, surprisingly, able to spin the Compiz cube around but opening any applications resulted in mostly-grey and partially-drawn windows that I couldn’t move around. So, I had a cube and not much else.
  • MEPIS is also fond of forcing me to use a resolution of 2048×1536 with a refresh rate of 60Hz on my IBM 6652 21″ CRT monitor, which not only means that I can’t read anything but that I will also get a headache due to the excessive screen flicker. If I change it to 1280×1024 in KDesktop, with a refresh rate of 85Hz (even though it can go above 100Hz) it will stay that way for the current X session, but reboot or log off and on again, and it’s back to 2048×1536. By specifying the correct model number in MEPIS’s X Window Assistant, I can see that it has the vertical and horizontal frequencies setup correctly, but KDesktop just won’t use high enough refresh rates or remember my resolution.
  • So, in short, MEPIS is no better or worse than any other distro I’ve tried.

Conclusion

If Windows XP ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t install Vista. Just stick with what you already have. Even if XP’s recovery CD is a tad dumb, dealing with that little problem is nothing compared to the nightmare of finicky linux distributions and all the software that does things their own way, like disagreeing on sound libraries, or having a choice of new windows opening cascaded, centered, or “smart” (meaning centered, top left, top right, etc until it runs out of places to put them), instead of just where you last left them (that’d be asking too much!). If you’re easily annoyed by inconsistency and the need to tinker with things to get them working, you aren’t going to like Linux one little bit.

73 thoughts on “Distro hopping all the way back to Windows XP

  1. The reason I prefer KDE over Gnome is that it allows me to customise its look and feel the way I like it (particularly regarding desktop icons and the file manager). I have had the odd problem with kio_slaves, but apart from that, I’m happy. KDE 4, however, isn’t quite up-to-scratch, so I’m sticking to 3.5.9 for now.

    What desktop system would you recommend (one that isn’t “one size fits all”)? I’ve tried xfce but it’s a tad too “cut down” for my liking. As much as KDE 4 isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, I can see a future for it, especially when users can configure it to their liking as much as they can with KDE 3.5.x right now.

  2. kde and gnome anything both suck ass, they are both counter polar extremes of suckage performance. Gnome with its users are retards philosophy and kde with its intercoupled bloat mindfuck of dependent subprocesses. Get a real desktop system when you use linux and stop screwing a deadhorse such as gnome or kde.

  3. The problem is that distributions like to shape their own ecosystems.

    I recommend Gobolinux. It breaks with the broken FHS model.

    Every App goes in one dir.
    Every setting to that app will also reside there.

    You dont need to fiddle around in a messed up /etc directory at all.

    That being said though, Gobolinux is NOT for a newbie. It will still require a bit knowledge. But at least the people on the mailing list are helpful if one is patient.

  4. I am now (fingers crossed) happily settled into Mandriva 2008 (i586) and have just installed VirtualBox, a free/open-source virtual machine emulator which was a cinch to install, unlike VMware whose kernel modules refused to compile, even with various modifications to the source code revealed by various Google searches (I did get one module to compile but not the vmnet module, unfortunately).

    And, all of a sudden, Vista media center is deciding it will connect to my Samba share! I don’t know exactly what I did, but I’m just glad it’s working because MythTV involves a little more tinkering than I care for right now (Knoppmyth turned out to be utterly useless and installing MythTV, lirc, etc, under Mandriva didn’t result in much, either).

    So, for now, Mandriva is working out quite well as a desktop OS.

  5. And let’s not forget, you have no idea what XP is doing behind your back. You may not know that about Linux either, but if it was doing anything sinister, many would catch on quickly and let world know. Unlike with XP, Linux isn’t closed source, backed by NDAs, AND has millions of USD there to bribe (give amnesia or give naivitetitus to) the few folks able to discover sinister actions being taken by XP or lying dormant. Instead you have a great many loud-mouths working on the open source code daily and publicly online.

    Add the fact that Microsoft is a beast whose ultra lucrative money pipeline is being threatened seriously.. Add that they are incorporating even more encryption into their new products than in the past.. Add that Gates and friends have ambitions beyond mere mortals and do not stop looking into new markets.. Add that the software they control lies underneath where most of the world plays out their office business.. Add that their EULA attempts to legally enable them to do virtually anything with any of your files.. Add that they continue taking over more and more components of the total computing experience for most users (now the MSpyware(TM) is crowding out third party watchdogs).. and you can only imagine what they have in store.

    In this context, mentally, a simple “apt-get dist-upgrade” + coffee (after a little research initially if no one told you about it) almost makes you feel like you arrived in Linux Hawaii after many years of hacking it out in the XP Sahara of uncertainty. The issues with a distro like PCLOS are like the initial day in Hawaii where things are a little more hectic than usual dealing with checking in and such. On XP, even in the best days, you can really become anxious over what the next day will bring if you have anything valuable on the machine and are saving things in MS formats using MS apps or depend on applications written for your business with MS tools. [Alright, I’m exaggerating just a tad :) ]

  6. >> I stand by my assertion that uninstalling user-space software should not break you system. I can add/remove things in XP all the time and still get reboot and log into my desktop every time.

    I have had the system start malfunctioning after installations or uninstallations on Windows. You may get a desktop afterwards, but it wasn’t the desktop you left behind. As these issues accumulate, eventually you don’t get a desktop at all, though not necessarily immediately after an installation/uninstallation.

    No system is perfect, but I agree with you to an extent. Linux distros should start incorporating a NEWBIE mode so that anything you do from a “package manager” is safe. There would be other features of course besides package management safety. The main point here though would be that you would only be allowed to install/uninstall a limited set of packages and you would never have problems. PCLOS and others should provide package views to NEWBIEs that are high level and virtually foolproof. QA for the NEWBIE level would be more comprehensive (it could be because there would be less knobs to test).

    I love Linux because you can resolve mistakes. You can even participate in improving the system (as you have done somewhat indirectly through your review). You don’t have those options with Windows. In fact, in a few years will there be any issue outstanding with Linux that Windows will have solved? Maybe, but by then Linux will have so much more. It gets better faster than MSware because more people can find and fix mistakes than what Redmond is capable and/or willing to put to the task for Windows (though they have a big head start). And the amazing thing of all of this is that Linux still has a much smaller number of end users than does Windows.

    Windows is a dead end, and with each new iteration of MSware that comes out, it will be that much more difficult to escape tomorrow (and be able to migrate your favorites, docs, etc) when Linux will clearly be the superior platform in almost every respect.

    Linux isn’t about perfection or about being better than Windows because you have to start somewhere. It’s about transparency, which means that it will eventually surpass Windows and keep flying.

    To get back to the PCLOS problem, whether it was an accidental uninstallation or not, I agree that in NEWBIE mode the system should never become difficult to get back into.

    BUT, let’s not forget that there was a solution. It was rather easy relatively speaking (in the future avoid most problems by simply doing dist-upgrades since these take you to the most recent point across all apps which presumably works).

    Linux will always provide a way to shoot yourself, it’s your computer after all and it’s too difficult to know everything that can kill you, so in ADVANCED mode, you should always be able to modify the system as you wish. I mean, Linus and many others have to deal with crashing their (development) system on a daily basis. It’s the only way to make deep improvements to the system and test them out (no one is perfect all the time).

    Also, there may be a weakness in the dependencies coded into PCLOS (apt handles dependecies, whether using debs or rpms). Or apt may need to be extended to allow for handling more cases. I really don’t know because I haven’t looked or researched this enough yet.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RPM_Package_Manager
    >> RPM has also been criticized for a lack of consistency in package names and content (termed ‘dependency hell’) which can make automatic dependency handling difficult. However, this is not a problem inherent in the RPM format, but rather because of differing packaging guidelines among major Linux distributions that use RPM in packaging such as Fedora, SUSE, and Mandriva Linux. When using packages that are from a particular distribution (say Red Hat Linux) or built for a particular distribution (for example Freshrpms for Fedora [2]), tools such as urpmi, yum or apt can perform automatic dependency checking.

    To RufusRex: XP works until it doesn’t. Someone is always saying that their system is perfect, but the reality is that all of them fall short.

  7. I agree with Marc … Linux is a waste of time and only appeals to the sorts of people who use band aids to hold their horn rimmed glasses together. Other people who live in the real world and have real relationships with real people are happy enough to use XP because it satisfies the most base requirement … IT WORKS.

  8. Marc, you completely lazy smacktard. You bitch about everything but dont actually have the good graces to do a bit of research and see just how good linux can really be. A bit of effort yields sweet rewards. Instead you sit there moistening a chair over XP and the minions of baal.

  9. Ok you do not like Gnome. So you may want to try PCLinux OS and I think it is quite good. You can still keep using Windows XP and I agree it is pretty good. But Vista will finally replace it once SP1 (or at the latest SP2) is out.

    I think Andrey’s No 59 post is quite good. It takes time to get used to Linux. And you may like it once you get over the initial frustrations. In fact, I did not think I would use mainly Linux at home even after years of playing with Linux. Only after Ubuntu 5.04, I started to like Linux. And there is no need to abandon Windows. Both has its strong point. Dual boot is a good option.

  10. J. Bracca: You, like most people, seem to have skipped over the parts where I say GNOME is unacceptable because Nautilus is retarded. I’ve never heard of GOS and I don’t use any of Google’s applications so I see no reason to install it.

    Stephen: It seems the KDE developers have had a little tantrum and seem to think that releasing rubbish as a .0 release is somehow acceptable? If they had kept it in beta then criticisms like mine would only apply to testing code, not something the world is going to take as a mostly-finished product.

    Brendan Scott: I may even switch to Vista after SP1 or SP2. Microsoft might even do the unexpected and listen to criticisms of Vista and make some improvements. If they do, I’m prepared to use it until Linux gets its act together.

    Andrey: If 4 out of the 5 distros I evaluated are for the “average user”, this somehow guarantees I’ll go back to XP? So, unless average users pick distros unfriendly to newbie Windows converts, such as openSUSE or Fedora, then these “average user” distros are for no particular purpose at all, then?

    SirYes: I wouldn’t say my machine is “strange”. Here’s a run-down of the hardware: Intel Q6600 CPU, Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 mobo, 2GB of Corsair PC-5300 memory, Seagate SATAII 500GB 7200RPM hard drive with NCQ and 16MB cache, ATI Radeon X300 PCI-express video card with 128MB of RAM, SilverStone ST56F 560watt PSU, Coolermaster Mystique Full Tower Case, and a Pioneer DVR-111D 16x dual layer DVD burner. I don’t see anything strange about any of this hardware. There’s no chance I’ll be buying a PC with Linux pre-installed because then I’d have a machine with cheap and nasty internal components, an inadequate power supply, and (no doubt) an ugly case.

    Brent R Brian: Everybody thinks their distro is the best, well, I’m sorry but it seems that Fedora isn’t suited to new users. Apart from what I’ve heard from people who have tried it, this review seems to confirm the unsuitability of Fedora for new Linux users: “…this distro is really suited to developers, enthusiasts or perhaps server deployments” and “With distributions like Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS and Mandriva around which do everything for you I don’t see many novice users choosing Fedora.”

    Xiaofan: Since you’ve missed them, allow me to quote a few things I said about GNOME above:

    “It was GNOME, so it was complete rubbish…”

    “…Linux Mint does use GNOME, which is far too Mac-like with it’s philosophy of hiding most configurable options from the user and forcing everybody into one mould.”

    “I just don’t like GNOME much, especially the retarded file manager and the desktop icons that you can’t put near the edge of the screen (which I do so that I can still see important desktop icons when I have windows open).”

    “GNOME is for idiots happy to do things the way Migual de Icaza likes them and not the way the end user might prefer.”

    “Just because you’re happy in the wasteland that is GNOME, doesn’t mean the whole world will be. Even Linus Torvalds himself says GNOME is complete crap compared to KDE, so it’s not just me.”

    “You missed the bit where I said GNOME’s file manager is retarded? I’m not switching to a distro where something as important as the file manager is like wading through mush every time you have to use it. Thunar is OK but still nowhere near Konqueror.”

  11. You claimed to try the TOP linux distros and yet you ignore FEDORA ? I have been using RedHat since v5.0, there have been a few releases in there that made me wish I had not updated, but NONE OF THEM made me wish I was using WINDOWS.

    B

  12. Well, I haven’t read all the comments under your blog entry, but here are my initial thoughts:

    I’m sorry for you that you were unable to utilize sufficiently any Linux distribution. It’s typically not so hard for most people. What is it with the strange machine you’ve tried to install a Linux-based system on? Because hardware-related problems really kill any fun and you’ve obviously had a good number of them.

    My experience and experience of my wife, my parents, by sister, two our cousins (14 an 18 yrs), and my old auntie is this [and that makes about 3+2+1+1+2+1, ehm… 10 machines?] – for all these installations Ubuntu Linux (and one Linux Mint too) worked quite well. There were occasionally some rough edges, but I was able to work around them.

    Granted, I have about 5+ years of experience with various Linux systems – be it Gentoo, Debian, Slackware, Mint, PCLinuxOS, Arch and Ubuntu – and I know that simply applying the Windows habits to the Linux world just do not work. Yes, I too have tried once to do everything in rush, I only cursed and despairated, but now it’s different. I just don’t take my Linux troubles too serious nor too personal. These are just computers and operating systems, plus a bunch of end-user applications. Easy here.

    However I am pleased that you’ve tried, and oh boy, you’ve really tried hard. I wish you that when you’d be forced to upgrade from Windows XP in the future (think: end-of-life, no more MS support and updates), you’d find some Linux-based system that would pass your highly put bar of a “fussy Windows user”. Or possibly a new machine with preinstalled and preconfigured system (think: no hardware problems). Happy computing!

  13. The author looks more experienced than the newbie from whose perspective the distros are evaluated. I read the message of the article as follows: an XP refugee will try 5 distros and return back to XP. This is absolutely true, but meaningless.

    I started using Linux previous century, tried 20+ distros abandoning Linux at first signs of dissatisfaction and coming back whenever I failed to do something in Windows or found an interesting but Linux only toy. I settled double booting XP and Slackware.

    I must say the distros are indeed different since different kind of people gather around each. Thus, it is natural to get back to XP after trying only 5 distros, especially when there is no reason to switch. More so, 4 out of 5 evaluated distros are for “average user”, that is, for nobody in particular. No wonder the end result is XP.

    The problem with the article is that the author thinks it is valid to expect that one can get a free OS. This is not, and never will be, true. One may pay in learning, so that the World trades one free OS and software stack for one, at least potential, developer or tester. Alternatively, pay money. If you have problems installing a driver – BUY a distro where it is installed. You should also get real tech support with it.

    I do not know who fuels this misconception, but it definitely helps MS to keep the monopoly.

    To Matt K.: I believe it is a myth that OSS is made by people in their spare time. Partially it is so, but mainly OSS is made by payed developers and corporations who think that they can get more with cooperation than by selling closed “solutions”. I would add IBM, Oracle and, yes, Sun to your list.

    The difference is that with the “spare time” development the answer is “what did you expect for free”, while with “cooperative development” it is “you are under qualified to join the club”.

  14. >>I know, get a Mac to use when you feel brain dead, and get Linux to use when you want to try new things and have gotten board of the Mac.

  15. Your choices are:
    (a) learn to like Linux; and
    (b) migrate to Vista

    Think about what you’ll be doing in 3-5 years time. You can’t stay on xp forever.

  16. KDE 4.0.0 has all of the features that were promised from the beginning, They promised a COMPLETE port to QT 4, and the beginning of new technologies.

    And it’s here. The developers spent thousands of hours on this, and you’re knocking it for no reason. The 12-17 live CD is dated. the mos trecent live cd, is also dated. The final version is very stable, completely usable, and fast.

    Thanks for being the worlds biggest dumb ass.

  17. John M. Brown: I do have an ISO of Ubuntu 7.10 but haven’t done much with it because Nautilus is about as simplified and dumbed-down as the Mac Finder. Thunar is a mild improvement but not that much better. Konqueror is the best Linux file manager that I’ve yet found. I’ll get at least another year out of XP before it becomes decrepit. I knew somebody who only upgraded from 2000 to
    Vista last year, so I might get some good times out of XP until at least 2010. Maybe by then your average Linux distro won’t need so much tinkering out of the box.

    down8ve: If the Mac Finder wasn’t as retarded as Nautilus, I could modify OSX’s keyboard shortcuts, and Apple released a Mac about as powerful as the iMac but without an integrated screen such that I could upgrade my own video card and hard drive, I could buy a Mac tomorrow. Path Finder is nice but it can’t replace the Finder completely.

    dedmin: One shouldn’t be limited to the perpendicular pronoun when writing of one’s Linux experience. If things are unintelligible out of the box and require endless tinkering and editing of config files, then I think it’s OK to make broader statements.

    trashcat: If Compiz is beta software then why do most Linux distros feature screenshots displaying Compiz so prominently on their home pages? Seems a bit dishonest to me. Bait people with dazzling eye-candy then let them down when they realise that it doesn’t smell like roses.

    effex: I did know that Linux, per se, refers only to the kernel, but most people simply use the term to describe the operating system as a whole, as did I in my post. If Linux is an elite product that requires patience, then the users who keep saying it’s fit for their grandmothers need to censor themselves a little.

    Jeremiah: Maybe these distros aimed at making Linux easier for new users needs a “readme” on the desktop that explains all these things that have been turned off by default. Having to hunt around for a fix that should be there by default simply adds to the frustration and the impression that Linux is crap. I definitely didn’t uninstall xinetd because I would then have had to re-install the package to get kdeinit working.

    Doug Jenkins: If it wasn’t for kdeinit being busted because of the uninstallation of a video player, I would have been left with a better impression. Compared to openSUSE and Kubuntu, PCLOS is miles ahead, though.

    Gary: I remember reading a review of Linux Mint that questioned the inclusion of Envy by reason of it being deprecated? I don’t know the whole story but I did notice the icon on the menu. Didn’t fully understand what it was for – “Envy” isn’t particularly self-explanatory :-)

    Mark: I’ve used Windows 3.11, 95, 95 OSR2, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, Windows 2000 Professional, and Windows XP. All of them had video drivers that worked easily and were a breeze to install and all of them (apart from Windows 3.11) had a similar file manager that would let me draw selection rectangles around files in details view (a feature which Nautilus seems to think is too advanced for a user to have).

    Paul: I agree that Linux Mint is a very fine system. I just don’t like GNOME much, especially the retarded file manager and the desktop icons that you can’t put near the edge of the screen (which I do so that I can still see important desktop icons when I have windows open).

    Robert Pogson: You are kidding, right? Use the VESA driver? As for Debian, I remember dabbling with it back in the bo/hamm/slink days and dreaming of woody, which took an eternity to come out. Debian are far too slow to release upgrades and their fundamental opposition to anything that’s not GPL says I won’t be having much fun with that distro!

    doug: So the default X server won’t work and you have to know to go an install xserver-glx? This is my problem with Linux. There’s too many cryptic package names you have to know to get things to work that should be done for you by the control center. It’s almost like the distros of old, where you get menu icons for all sorts of programs whether they were installed on your system or not. It’s your problem if you didn’t know you had to install something that the GUI leads you to believe is as easy as one or two clicks.

    Laryssa: I could probably settle into one distro within a week, but I was curious to see if any of them were decent out of the box. The answer is an emphatic “no”, unfortunately. They all require a degree of tinkering and editing config files and no matter how many reply here saying “have you tried distro XYZ” not one of them are going to be any better or worse in the long run.

    Jon: Linux (and the Mac) would be more popular if their respective creators were cognisant of people’s “comfort zones” and at least made it easier for newcomers. Having to go to the lengths I’ve gone to get simple things going isn’t going to coax too many people out of their comfort zones (until there are no further updates for XP and it becomes a trojan/spyware/virus magnet more than it currently is).

    Bystander: As I’ve stated before, the vanilla Ubuntu isn’t going to be my Linux distro because the GNOME philosophy is far too Mac-like in that the user shouldn’t be able to customise things as much as he or she can in KDE. If people want to live in a default environment, good on them, but why should preference screens be so spartan for people that prefer things a little different?

    Fred: From what I understand about Gentoo, it’s more for people that prefer to compile everything, so a distro based on the über-nerd’s distro of choice doesn’t really sound like a good choice if I value my time.

    Jose_X: You just might be a bigger crack-pot than me :-) I stand by my assertion that uninstalling user-space software should not break you system. I can add/remove things in XP all the time and still get reboot and log into my desktop every time.

    Mark Veltzer: I have about 100 programs and utilities installed in Windows and it works fine. Sure, I begin to feel “dirty” after six months or so and roll-back to a nicely-configured Acronis image, but that’s just my preference. The number of comments I’ve read that say upgrading a Linux distro isn’t recommended too widely cancels-out any perceived downside to me restoring a disk-image with similar frequency.

    Stephen: The KDE folks will lose any chance they might have had to defend KDE4 if they release it as 4.0.0 any day now and claim that “KDE 4.0.0 != KDE4”. As far as I and the rest of the world are concerned, a point-zero release should be fairly feature-complete but not necessarily bug free. From what I’ve seen of the 2007-12-17 live CD, it’s crap. If the Linux community spent less time creating icons and more time making their products usable, the world might just be a better place.

    Maarten Kooiker: At the end of the day I’m not all that fussed on extra eye-candy but I wanted to see how easy it would be to get it to work, mainly because Compiz is the first time my brother has even considered Linux. Since most distro’s are whoring out their releases via Compiz-riddled screenshots, it’s only fair for me to judge them by it.

    Robert: If you enjoy having to pore over lengthy instructions to get simple things working, if you are happy to work for your computer rather than having it work for you, then good on you. Switcing operating systems for most of us isn’t going to happen if it means wasting time with documentation written by every man and his dog to get something to work that shouldn’t be so troublesome (read: openSUSE’s ATI driver install page).

    Rich: I have looked at Ubuntu’s live CD and didn’t like it. GNOME is for idiots happy to do things the way Migual de Icaza likes them and not the way the end user might prefer. There’s not much to complain about because there’s not much there. I’m guessing that GNOME must have half the number of configuration options as KDE, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing; users don’t have to bring up preference dialogs if they’re happy with the defaults, so why have so few options in them?

    Ryan: Or idiots such as yourself happy to drink the simpleton’s desktop environment of choice. I’ll bet that if/when you’re a Windows user you’d think that “The Internet” icon was just that, the internet, because it was on you desktop already. Just because you’re happy in the wasteland that is GNOME, doesn’t mean the whole world will be. Even Linus Torvalds himself says GNOME is complete crap compared to KDE, so it’s not just me.

    Matt K: Uninstalling Real Player or Adobe Reader in Windows does not hose my system. One shouldn’t expect the uninstallation, using the package’s own uninstallation information, to completely break the graphical user environment. By the way, I’ve worked in I.T. since 1996 and have a degree in I.T. where I wrote Java Servlets, Perl CGIs, PostgreSQL databases, and .NET web applications. I’m not an idiot, I simply have a low tolerance for crap that breaks easily when it shouldn’t or for crap that’s needlessly complicated when there are existing systems that aren’t so.

    JDW: At the end of the day I’m really not going to be using the spinning desktop cube, but I wanted to find the perfect distro with this option because my brother has finally shown interest in Linux because of it. So I thought, hey, I might finally be able to switch to Linux and not feel ashamed of it when my brother sees that having to get some simple eye-candy working (that most distros are keen to show off, by the way) actually turns out to be a nightmare. I’m not going to use something myself that I’m forever going to have to apologise for or make excuses for.

    Colin: Vista isn’t getting within a mile of my PC, either. But I can see the writing on the wall,though. Apple have got about a year release a headless and user-upgradable Mac mini tower with a Finder and keyboard shortcuts that aren’t retarded, or Linux has about the same time to polish things a bit.

    JT: Nobody on #kubuntu, #linuxmint, #suse, or #pclinuxos-support mentioned Envy. It was only in a review of Linux Mint that I heard mention of it. And if Compiz is beta software then why do all the distros try to hawk it as a way of getting people to switch to Linux?

    me: Changing your theme in Ubuntu does not make Nautilus any less retarded, I’m afraid.

    Rob: I don’t suck at computers, but Linux does suck at doing a good job of handling new users.

    mobygeek: If your friends are buying new computers every six months because Windows is getting slow, then I suggest they user their restore disks, and since a lot of people don’t recommend upgrading Linux distros between major releases, then there’s nothing wrong with using a restore disk (or an Acronis image, like me)

    Jesse: You missed the bit where I said GNOME’s file manager is retarded? I’m not switching to a distro where something as important as the file manager is like wading through mush every time you have to use it. Thunar is OK but still nowhere near Konqueror. GNOME isn’t going to cut it, I’m afraid, until they decide to add some user-configurable options to make it customisable.

    Johanson: And if you don’t like Windows then don’t go ranting about how great Linux is. Just keep your mouth shut and use Linux :-)

    Bobber: For now I’m tired of Linux’s moodiness. The rules of statistical sampling would have to say that the five distros I’ve tried are a good representation of the current state of Linux, and I see no reason why trying yet another one is going to make any difference. If Mepis was perfect I would have heard more about it.

    Jon: I can be as picky as I like and if finding a distro where things are easy to setup and I’m not slaving over config files all the time is my defintion of finding a replacement for Windows, then too bad.

    Tom G: You’re spot on about the sound support. The main volume slider (in PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint, from memory) had not effect on adjusting the sound coming from various video and audio applications. What’s the point of having a main volume slider when it’s out to lunch all the time?

    Dr Joe: If my understanding is correct Xandros took up Microsoft’s offer of some “no law suit” patent deal, so, whilst I’m happy to keep using XP for the time being, I don’t like the idea of supporting a distro that has sold out on the patent issue.

    Rick: Um, isn’t Kubuntu for people that want Ubuntu but with KDE? I don’t get, why install Ubuntu, with all that GNOME rubbish, when there’s an Ubuntu with a K in front of it for people that want KDE. What am I missing here? Regarding your statement about video card, it’s an ATI Radeon X300 so I’m not so sure installing a NVidia driver via Synaptic would solve my issues.Besides, PCLOS detected my card fine; it was openSUSE that wouldn’t play ball and I had to install ATI’s driver .run file to get it to work with Linux Mint, after trying the recommended methods that didn’t work.

    Noel: I can’t remember the last time I had a virus in Windows. If I ever had one, it was last century! I would also like to give Mandriva a try but X won’t even load on my machine from the Mandriva 2008 One KDE CD I downloaded (see my comments on Mandriva above for more info).

    Joe User: Loser.

    Sid Boyce: You could get a MacBook or MacBook Pro. I know somebody in Adelaide, South Australia, who said that most Linux nerds at some Linux conference he went to there several years ago had Mac laptops running Linux. No Vista tax there (but it’s a Leopard tax, though)

    Phil: Uninstalling user-space software on Windows has never hosed the operating system such that I couldn’t log into it. I did not uninstall xinetd because I didn’t have to install that to get kdeinit to work.

  18. Marc,
    I suggest you take your ADD meds FIRST. Then give Gnu/Linux a try – one distro at a time.

  19. In deed I have read all the article an it is unfair, as You choose KDE and do not evaluated GNOME or FCE alternatives on ubuntu.

    I also do not see any comment on GOS wish is ubuntu with google app integrated

    Thanks God , Windows is not a car or plenty people had been kill by “accidental bugs”

    The history himself of the development of windows is obscure.

    Look Mac what they choose? to run?? LINUX

    I strongly recommend you to do a more long evaluation of the distros

  20. I wish people would stop this crap. You know I actually TRY to buy into this linux doesn’t work crap and then install it on another PC and SURPRISE!!!….it works. I have had to do no more tweaking to get everything working with Linux than I have Windows. In fact there are things that I never got working with Windows like my HP all-in-one (with driver disk) yet it worked as soon as I plugged it into my linux box.

    I’ll give you a hint. If you don’t want linux to work then it will not work. So don’t bother trying it and then ranting about what you set out to have fail failing. Its rather silly to read to all of the people that have their linux desktops up and running. And it doesn’t take some ridiculous amount of tweaking and adjusting to get it usable (internet, word processing, etc.)

    As for apps I have abandoned ALL Windows apps and only start up a Windows VM to access one Windows only system at work from home. Maybe Apple has some nice apps but I’m not going to pay the pretty penny for a Mac when the apps I have right here do way more than I need. I don’t have to tweak any of the apps…they just work.

    And please tell me the guy removed xinetd instead of xine and is complaining about it. I’m not saying its a mistake that no one could make. But its just as easy if not easier to hose your Windows box through such a mistake. But once again if you do it on linux then linux isn’t ready…if you do it on Windows its just a mistake.

  21. My experiences are to the contrary. I run openSUSE without any problems and I have Mandriva and kubuntu running on two other PC’s as well as in Virtual Machines on top of openSUSE together with PCLinuxOS, freespire, SimplyMepis and Sabayon. I also have installed openSUSE for a number of people and SimplyMepis for one other person – all these people are relatively novices, yet they don’t have any problems and use a multiplicity of applications.
    Windows XP on the other hand has been a royal pain in the rear with the number of calls I get from people when it inevitably croaks. I don’t have Windows of any description installed on my PC’s and I’ve started to refuse to look at any Windows problems people ask me to. Let Microsoft fix their own dross.
    BTW I’ve spent days on the internet unsuccessfully trying to find a modern laptop without Windows Vista installed as I don’t want no piggin Windows and I don’t want Microsoft to drag me into their net and boost their sales figures with something I don’t want. So for now at least I shall have to do without a new laptop or accept Hobson’s choice or as they used to say in the old Soviet Union, you are free to choose any car you like as long as it’s a Lada and likewise I am free to choose any laptop I like as long as it has Windows Vista installed on it.

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