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.


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. Sorry it didn’t work out for you. Perhaps computers are too much for you, and you should instead buy yourself a nice clean sheet of paper and a new pencil (Ihear the Ticoderoga #5 got rave reviews in luddite today). Just a few tips to help you find joy.

  2. Is this some flame wars bait?

    I rather spend 1 or 2 days fiddling with config options and enjoy a lifetime of a secure, virus-free, solid OS than spend 2 hours installing an OS that will have me rebooting, disinfecting and reinstalling for a lifetime.

    The first thing to do after choosing a distro is CHECK IF YOUR HARDWARE IS COMPATIBLE. I’ve had my share of device problems, all because of the Windows-centric hardware (it’s cheaper to make the OS do all the processing instead of adding the proper hardware).

    In time distros have improved the overall install experience, and will continue to do so. In time even the I-don’t-wanna-read-procedures-and-manuals users will be able to complete a successful install.

    Meanwhile, enjoy your virus zoo, rebooting and reinstalling while I enjoy my Mandriva desktop.

  3. Kubunbtu: Did you think abut installing Ubuntu with the KDE desktop environment?
    For your nvidia card, why didn’t you just use Synaptic to install the nVidia driver? That seems to be your mistake.
    As for removing the video player, you removed much more than that, and it seems you didn’t read the package list Synaptic provided. Thats is given to you so you don’t remove things you need to keep. This again seems to be your mistake.
    … so you began to doubt PCLOS because of your own mistakes. Interesting.

    And why do you think a person using a Linux based distro would expect to be able to write to an NTFS partition by? I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I could read it, by default.

    You should realize that Linux based distro are not Windows. They do not act the same. Do not expect them to. Do not confuse familiarity for ease of use.

    As for XP, how long do you think Microsoft will support it? It seems they are fighting to force vendors, customers and users to move to Vista.

  4. I’ve been using Xandros since May. I’ve had none of the problems you’ve experienced. It’s on a dual boot system. I have to use XP now and then, perhaps three to four hours a week. All the other times, the Xandros experience has been just excellent.

  5. Sorry you seem to have had bad experiences. I myself prefer PCLinuxOS and love it. The only other that comes close for me is SimplyMEPIS, which you didn’t mention (it is KDE on default, AND is .deb-based which you want)
    – down8ve (comment 4) I don’t understand your comment AT ALL. There are no apps ? this is not 1999, there are plenty of fully functional applications in all areas (okay except games perhaps). Which apps are you missing? Possibly you expect not an application but a “big name” program such as Photoshop. If you spend a little time searching, there are a few programs to do what you want.
    In my experience, Linux’s big weakness is troubles with sound support in various ways.

  6. Doesn’t surprise me that you have failed miserably! I have been using Linux for many years and haven’t gone to Windows except in supporting customers.

  7. Compiz-fusion (or Beryl) does not define the capabilities of Linux. It is just an add-on for eye-candy and productivity if you can manage it. I use it on Ubuntu 7.10 and it works just fine. I haven’t had any problems with linux as an OS and can’t see myself every switching back to windows. I might consider Mac OS X but I am wary of vendor lock-in. I like my freedom and the ability to choose. That is what linux and the different GNU/Linux distributions are about.

    Your distribution reviews have been limited to enabling eye-candy and nothing to do with actual GNU/Linux issues like wireless connectivity or programs for work. This review is just a rant about getting 3d effects to work on linux. When you couldn’t manage to get it to work the way you liked it, you turned back to Windows XP, which I must add doesn’t have 3d effects. You then advise others not to use linux but stick to windows because of this.


  8. “Why, pray tell, would I want to do a presentation in OO Impress instead of Keynote? Why would anyone want to create a newsletter in Scibus instead of Pages or the newest Word?”

    Because unlike those other applications, Scribus, OpenOffice and others are free in Linux which includes free updates?

  9. I use a default Ubuntu 7.10 on my system. Compiz just works as I deliberately bought an OS less system with Intel graphics so I could use an open source 3D hardware enabled video driver when I installed Gutsy. OK I have been a Linux user for six years and have a background in Unix but Ubuntu is so easy now it just works.

    I have to use XP at work and its painful compared to Ubuntu. It’s a pleasure to get home and use amodern operating system compared to the legacy crap I have to use at work.

  10. I installed Ubuntu 7.10, with no hitches at all. Put the CD installed booted, switched on restricted drivers and its all worked. I will agree that operating systems based on the Linux kernel still need a lot of work and obviously its gonna take longer to get on par with windows or mac due to the fact they dont have millions of $$$ getting pumped into it every year. Its gonna take longer if people, like yourself, are to lazy to give it a shot and help the community out. If you don’t like Linux don’t go ranting about how shit you think it is, just keep your mouth shut, and use Windows.

  11. It’s too bad that your experience was so negative Marc. You still haven’t addressed the fact that Ubuntu is not on this list. Sure, it uses Gnome, but based on your complaints, you want Gnome. Ubuntu includes restricted drivers(closed source), so you can use Compiz right out of the box or you can run envy or manually install the latest release of drivers. I switched to Ubuntu about two years ago from Debian (there was a terrible period in between where I used Red Hat) and I’m forced to use Windows at work, so I’m very familiar with all three operating systems. They all work well enough, as they’re just interfaces with the computer, but Ubuntu stays out of my way better than anything I’ve tried thus far. I truly hope you’ll try it before throwing in the towel and going back to Windows. If you do, I wish you the best of luck and you have my sympathy.

  12. some good points – typical linux distributions include
    way too many choices (e.g. sound mixers). They should
    make an editorial decision of one preferred version and
    make sure it works.

    On the other hand…
    Windows makes sense to you only because you’re used to it.
    I’ve always used unix-based OSs, and find windows incredibly
    frustration. The control panels are an illogical mess,
    lots of different places to find things and you’re never
    sure if you’ve explored every option. Basic things like
    rename seem risky, delete takes a reaallly long time,

    and worst of all, windows systems seem to “rot” over time
    as more new software gets installed – everyone I know who
    has windows is always buying a new computer every 6 months.

    I switched from linux to a mac a few years ago (still
    use Linux at work though). The mac is linux done right.

  13. Clearly another Windows “Power” user.

    Hey Marc, Microsoft is the reason you suck at computers.

    Anyone who finds Linux too difficult has only one person to blame.

  14. try ubuntu (the normal version, not kubuntu) it does work nicely, and if your main complaint is that you don’t like brown then you can change the theme.

  15. Dude your using Compiz first of all. Thats beta software so please dont start dissing it when it starts crashing on you. Its happened to all of us and we bothered to look it up and fix it.
    Also just use Envy. It will save you time and patience. Even if you never heard of it, IM CERTAIN AT LEAST ONE PERSON WOULD MENTION IT. That is if you did go to the all the IRC channels of the distros you reviewd.

    ..Peace…..KUBUNTU FTW…

  16. I am reluctantly coming to a similar conclusion. I have been using Kubuntu exclusively for about a year (reasons being that I prefer KDE, the deb packaging and the support for *ubuntu on the web is fantastic). I enjoy using it and will continue to do so, as it keeps getting better.

    Unfortunately, despite the improvements in Wine, I still have a battle on my hands to play games modern Windows games (other than World of Warcraft, which works flawlessly) and most won’t work at all. For this reason, I will be re-partitioning my hard drive to reinstall XP alongside Kubuntu. Until games producers start making their products cross-platform, or Wine makes a leap in compatibility, I’ll be stuck with M$.

    But Vista will never get within a mile of my pc :-)

  17. Marc, you might be better served by just accepting these distros as is. How important are spinning cubes for you, really? I use a number of different distributions at home, work and on the road. All of my computers are rock stable and hassle free. That’s because 98% of what I need in most distros is already there. I don’t feel the need to try out new cutting edge window managers.

    Starting out your first week with Linux by trying to make a major change to the OS seems like a recipe for disaster to me. Even if you were successful in getting Compiz set up do you think it’s going to be completely bug free and stable at this stage?

    Most of the distros you listed above are wonderfully stable and have a ton of great applications included. As is, I think any of them are more than adequate replacements for Windows. No major tinkering needed. If you do decide to get your hands dirty and pop the hood than please don’t have the impression that it’s going to be easy. To fully understand a distro built on Linux takes years. Save yourself some frustration and leave the spinning cubes alone. Install a distro, spend a little time finding the applications you need and then enjoy using an OS that is secure, stable and doesn’t get in your way.

  18. Hello Marc,

    It is obvious you wanted to try Linux because you say the kool compiz-fusion FX. This (sadly) seems to be a main attraction for most Windows users that come to Linux for the first time.

    Take note that you experience does not mention Ubuntu ( which in my opinion is the easiest to use Distro out there, yes it uses Gnome hense why you bailed on trying it out. Funny, yet you tried Mint/Gnome Linux. )

    Regarding your Video Play back issues, in Ubuntu at least, if you try to play a vid that it can not Ubuntu will give you a Ok or Cancel pop up option to auto install and config the codec so you can watch your video. This works for wmv, mpeg, avi, ogg … and I think even .mov

    If you do not like the ‘skin’ tone of Ubuntu.. simply CHANGE it. iT IS EASY TO CHANGE IT TO YOUR DE FACTO blue!

    Yes, I agree that if you try to mess with installing software (outside its packaging system) and you do not know what your doing, you will kill your system. That is why Ubuntu enfoces SUDO as a pre command to indicate to the user that this command will do harm if you do not know what you are going. It does require a password so it makes it obvious it may be a ‘risky’ command if you fsck it up.

    I myself had problems with Ubuntu 7.10 installing on my dx6000 HP Pavilion Laptop… so I installed PCLOS and even the wireless worked out-of-the-box. Altho the sound does not.

    See the point is this.

    Linux/GNU/open Source is FREE software, make by people in their spare time. ( Yes corps are getting in on the action like Redhat, Novell and Conanical to name just a few. ) But, if one distro does ot work for you as it did not for my laptop, i simply tried another distro that DID work.

    How much did this cost me?

    0$ no money…. yes I am a linux programmer and so I know how to deal with Linux when it gets funky with you. Most do not … however with the new generation of kids growing up with computers they will no doubt have more computer intuition that sadly you may not posses right now.

    Linux has so many choices… you dog that in your article. In fact the massive choices are beyond what you know by far, trust me I find new Open Source based projects and goods everyday I never knew existed. MythBuntu, Linux Media Center… and all those distros.

    Each distro helps the others, and right now deb and apt-get seem to be favorites for the packaging systems.

    Linux is like a deep ocean with life forms (open source projects) swimming at every level if it’s deepths… it is just now emerging as a Desktop and that is a pretty good feat.

    Just you see… anyone willing to

    a) Pay for windows and get viruses is out of their mind.
    b) pay over priced software from apple that boxes you in


    c) Eventually Linux (Open Source) will be the answer to all software endeavours.

  19. I’m sorry that you are a complete idiot. Try GNOME, after all, the authors develop the desktop manager for idiots like yourself.

  20. yeah you’d be better suited to Gnome. Try Ubuntu! Not much to complain about there. Or wait 7 days ’till KDE 4 comes out! Huge changes

  21. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

    Personally, I’ve battled some of the quirks of some Linux distros, but frankly Linux and all of it’s different flavors has put fun back into computing for me. Windows is a stale “Average Joe” world of blandness and predictability accompanied by the experience of just “going along for the ride” as opposed to “gaining complete command over the computer, the Operating System, and the overall experience”. I like being captain of my own computer ship. It’s just my personal preference and Linux, regardless of how I run it with whatever distro or window manager fits the bill nicely for my computing work as other tools do in my professional life. I prefer to control my ship myself rather than letting one or many large companies control me and my experiences

    Enjoy your uneventful Windows ride through a boring computer landscape. It’s easy and effortless with very few surprises, isn’t it?.

    I opt for a more eventful, challenging and rewarding computer experience. It’s just more fun to be challenged at getting past the mundane world that the “Average Joe” is forced to live in so that we can do and experience things that can’t be done with the “one size fits all” system offered by Microsoft. Do you take pride in being “Average Joe”? Have fun now.

  22. >> While it is fun to rant against things that are not “free,” average Joes are willing to pay for things that work.

    Either you have not tried Linux or your concept of work doesn’t apply to XP? I can’t tell which.

    Oh, wait, you advocate a Mac not an XP. I have not used a Mac in ages though I saw one on display. My problem with the Mac world is the lack of options and that you don’t know how much Jobs and friends are spying on you or filtering what you experience or would be capable of experiencing. With Linux, the limits are documented and well understood and can be shut off.

    Granted, most people will initially be happier with a Mac just for the sake of simplicity, but aren’t there cheaper ways to have simplicity?

    And what happens when you outgrow it? What about all the things Steve Jobs does not want to support for you because they compete with his high-priced applications and gear? What then?

    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.

  23. 5 distro’s in 1 week….that’s a little more than one distro per day… I’m sorry it didn’t work, but I’m absolutely not surprised…. In plus, it is not realy fair judging Linux (better:GNU/Linux) by 3D effects, whereas these are not even available with XP.
    I have just one tip: get your balls together and force yourself to use ONE distribution (doesn’t matter which one, though reading your article maybe PCLOS is a good place to start) for an entire month. No switching back to Windows, just use this one distribution. In this way you will be forced to make things work and you will have the opportunity to experience the cool part of GNU/Linux. Believe me I also fucked up my system a few times, due to stupid mistakes on my part, but in the end I am a happy Linux user now!

  24. For not having the support of many hardware and software vendors, I think Linux is doing a damn fine job attempting to install on every possible configuration.

  25. On your comment about kde 4:

    KDE4 is nothing but new technology. The taskbar, and the desktop itself are a new technology called plasma, they are not a rewrite of old code it’s all brand new. Kicker (kde3 taskbar) and Kdesktop were eliminated. configurability is coming.

    Furthermore, KDE 4 was ported to QT4, which was a huge task and took years to complete, and it worked out great, it’s a HUGE HUGE HUGE change in technology, so before you spread a bunch of crap that the only new thing is the widgets and panel, research something. Thats the first rule of journalism.

    Also, years have gone into development of Oxygen, the widget set and icon set of KDE 4.

    Don’t knock something if you only used it for 3 minutes. Also, the version on the live CD is nothing like the version available from SVN which will be released.

  26. And Windows XP works?

    – Windows has no software on it (it comes more barren the the sahara desert).
    – All commerical pieces of sotware on windows look different. This is indeed for the novice user – not.
    – You cannot install more than 30 pieces of software on windows before your system starts going to hell and you have to reinstall.
    – no security what so ever.

    Give me a break. Just say you have no grey matter and don’t want to learn anything and be honest (at least with yourself if not with others).

  27. >> 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.

    The friend is correct? What in the world made that author, just out of the blue, think rpms were the issue? Clearly the author is a genius that goes where others have never been. I mean to touch Linux is a sign of genius. But I still have to question the inspiration for blaming rmps. Call me a doubting Thomas.

    The author does identify one interesting weakness of PCLOS and maybe of other distros. Forgetting for a moment that there may have been an error somewhere, it’s possible that PCLOS and others allow you to hose your system. Some work to prevent this, to always be sure that the user maintains a minimal system would be useful.

    Or more specifically, a distro in “NEWBIE” mode should not allow the system to be hosed. But this would mean not allowing root access to NEWBIE mode users. That’s fine. So when a person does become root, after leaving NEWBIE mode, they would have been /would be warned, maybe by reminding them that they should have a backup before proceeding.

    I will suggest that the author write a piece about how Ginsu knives stink because a user managed to stick one right into one side of his heart and out the other.

    Yes, some people really mishandle Ginsu knives, but most do not. And a computer is much less dangerous to one’s heart than Ginsu knives. I’d say if kindergarteners can have fun on Linux, so can most people (at least for a few hours each day).

    The author also makes the mistake of implying that a little bit of perserverance will not have a pay-off. I think the folks in Redmond should start using this form of attack more aggressively (they have very little to work with I know). They should take cues from articles like this one.

    The attack is to implicitly assume there is nothing worthwhile from getting a Linux distro working; hence the possibility that there might very well be a burp somewhere along the way should be reason enough to stay with the meager jail cells, high costs, and burps and flatulence firings of XP.

    I mean who wants to do anything without having Microsoft know about it? Not me. I love how my deceitful friends out west like to control what I know and what I can do. Who wants a system that is more stable or has new and cool things (more powerful apps for free than you can shake a leg at) and is growing much faster than XP and Vista or anything else Microsoft offers? Who? Certainly not me, nope. I don’t want any of that.

    It’s obvious that the author should have paid someone $30 to set things up for him/her but apparently ran out of money perhaps having just forked over several hundred to get an extension license to MS Office for a few more years. Sucker (some might say), Openoffice is free forever and has been improving at a faster rate than MS Office. But Openoffice is just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, brother, and you will never know.

    Finally, the authors ultimate conclusion id dead on. Suckers, stay with XP under all costs!!!!! The minows in the creek will bite your toes if you venture outside! Beware of the Linuxy minows in the creek!! Ooooooooo!!!!

    I love the great outdoors. And I love the palaces beyond the horizon Linux affords me, but then, I value control and freedomware and would not mind occasionally spending 30 bucks to enter a new world.

  28. Try Sabayon linux http://sabayonlinux.org. I am a big kubuntu guy. I like running fluxbox but will run beryl/compiz to show off the eyecandy to folks. If you want trouble free kde with beryl goodness. Sabayon is the way to go. Even from the live CD, it just works. It is based on gentoo, so you cant have everything.

  29. In defense of Compiz, it really isn’t designed for KDE – it seems to be fairly gnome-oriented. KDE’s fancy effects are coming with KDE4, which will probably be usable mid-2008.

    Ubuntu, to my knowledge, is the only distribution with success at Compiz. Not Kubuntu, which doesn’t seem to like it. Apart from that, you could be right that a couple of months work is needed. I would have liked to have seen vanilla Ubuntu on the list – if you don’t like orange, the theme isn’t hard to change.

  30. I have used Windows from 3.1. I have used linux also. I don’t try to switch anyone over to anything. What I do let them know is what my experience has been. Most people will not try it because like some of you have pointed out people get into a comfort zone. If it works right out of the box even with errors and other things they will use it. Not because they are “stupid” but many people just don’t want to spend the time tweaking things… and from my experience there is a lot of tweaking with linux. However that being said once you get it done and done right then you have a very stable much more secure system than windows. At this time Linux is not for everyone and sadly it never will be. I do believe it will grow in popularity though once it is more “out of the box” ready. There are some distros that I personally have not worked with but one that is close to windows is Linspire. It is not open source, but does cost a lot less than Windows… at least the last time I checked it did.

    Fighting with people just does not do anything. If the person feels XP is what they want to use then ok…. use it. I have a dual boot. Win XP and Ubuntu, with both the KDE and Gnome… I tinker and play around with both. (including tweaking xp to where it does not always look like xp out of the box but a Highly customized version

  31. You need to learn how to use linux. No wonder you are “distro hopping” all the way back to XP. Everyone complains about how hard it is to install these things. Of anything, XP is picky.

    Otherwise why would these “finicky” distros be around? Because people couldn’t stand XP or windows. Xp won’t run on my computer. Linux does.

  32. fyi, I’ve LinuxMint from CD a dozen times on an ATI based laptop and enabled Compiz by first installing the fglrx driver using the restricted-manager then logging out. I then installed the xserver-glx because the ati driver doesn’t work with AIGL. Because I don’t like to reboot, I logged back into a failsafe terminal to remove the loaded radeon and drm modules, load the fglrx driver from /lib/modules/”kernelname”/volatile/fglrx.ko.

    logging out of the terminal and back to the default gnome desktop allows me to then enable full appearance glitz.

    IMO, it’s actually pretty decent but I too prefer KDE but haven’t tried installing KDE on the LiveCD( apt-get install kubuntu-desktop ) but you might if so inclined.

  33. Sorry this did not work out for you. Actually, I feel quite the opposite. After using Linux, I cannot stand to use any version of Windows. Slow, unstable, and I cannot stand waiting for 30 sec to 2 minutes just to wait for Windows Explorer to wake up (File Manager).

    I too prefer KDE, but I started using Linux Mint and although it is Gnome based, it works flawlessly for me. I have not had one single issue. Beryl works well (but I really have no use for it), and it is fast, secure, and ultra stable.

    Different strokes for different folks, but Linux Mint 4.0 is the absolute best desktop I have ever used.

  34. How long have you been fiddling with flavours of Windows Mark? Or did that always just work for you?

    We’ll be seeing more posts like this – people like their comfort zone.

  35. Marc – Sorry you didn’t get a positive vibe with Linux. I agree with your SuSE assessment – that distro is a nightmare. Regarding Mint, I use it for my desktop, even though I much prefer KDE (and I am looking forward to KDE 4.0). I require 3D acceleration for games in Linux, so I install the proprietary ATI driver for my X1950XT. How do I do this? The only sane way possible – I use Alberto Milone’s “Envy” package. It’s even in the Mint repositories if you don’t want to download the .deb file yourself. If it wasn’t for Envy, I wouldn’t use Linux. Period.

    Link to Envy: http://albertomilone.com/nvidia_scripts1.html

    Don’t worry about the nvidia part of the URL; it’s for both companies.

    Give it a go and see if it gives you what you need. Click on the “Get Envy New” option for Linux Mint 4.0.


  36. Marc…

    I have used Linux for over two years now, in 2006 I dual-booted xp and elive (Linux with enlightenment desktop) but only used xp about ten times that year. I then switched to PCLinuxOS, because I got wifi connection during bootup; which neither elive OR xp could consistently deliver! …and then got rid of xp totally!
    Of course, my laptop manufacturer (averatec) helped with the decision… because they didn’t AND WOULDN’T provide a xp CD set for my model. Instead the restore/recover hidden partition on my hd was getting larger, soon 10% of my 80gig hd space.

    It isn’t that xp didn’t work…just seemed that I didn’t own or have total control over ‘my’ computer. And that doesn’t include the anti-virus and update concerns, that takes cpu cycles and bandwidth and even more hd space!

    I am a mature Linux user, in that, like others, we won’t force you to switch OS’ just to switch. Use what works and is comfortable for you and you need to be productive in work or in play.
    I just wanted others who read your comment section to know that PCLinuxOS has been a solid, fast and supportive system for me (and that includes the forum and chat channel, as you reported.)
    But then, I also tried about ten other Linux’s before settling on PCLinuxOS…for me it was the one that worked with all my hardware, and my needs.

  37. I have installed all the Player Packages read there descriptions and then uninstalled them with no issues on PCLinuxOS. The only way I found to duplicate you issue was to uninstall a package called xinetd. It has a close name to a play called xine but it’s actually a replacement for inetd which is unistalled would cause this issue. The only thing I can think that you did was select this package for uninstall without reading its description to know what it was. This leads to the ntfs issue and why it’s not enabled by default. There are files that can be deleted by accident on your ntfs partition that will render your windows install useless. If by accident you were to delete that file just like you blamed PCLinuxOS for the uninstall package issue you would most likely blame it for messing up your windows install. For now it’s really more of a CYA issue. If you know how to install and uninstall packages without messing up your system hopefully you will be able to use ntfs r/w support carefully. Like with anything new we must take precautions to learn instead of blame :)

  38. “Seems to suggest that Linux is incredibly fragile indeed!” … LOL! No, seriously: don’t you know that Linux is a kernel and that GNU/Linux is an OS with many different flavours? Of course you do! Still, you tell us a tale based on your experience with a few distros and you draw some conclusions on “Linux”. Linux isn’t fragile; some newer distros are. It happened to me that Linux worked better than Win Xp on some hardware, for instance a 2005 Asus L3000d laptop. The fact is that the Linux community seems to be committed to “conquer the desktop scene”, but it’s actually a wrong goal. Linux is, and will continue to be, an elite product for desktop end-users, since it requires some PATIENCE and some genuine WILL TO LEARN. Both things are hard to get in the “access era”….

  39. most of your complaints are not about linux really, but about compiz which is admittedly beta software…and does a whole ton of things that XP and vista don’t…so why don’t you just lay off compiz for a while?… Linux is still quite usable without it.

    I’m sorry that beta quality software that Microsoft can’t even come close to imitating in the first place is the reason that you’ll drop linux.

    It’s like saying “cool desktop effects don’t work while most everything else does, so I’m going to go back to the other operating system because it doesnt have cool desktop effects and its less configurable in the first place”…brilliant.

  40. I’ve used all the distributions You mention without problem. But I’ve done my homework. I read and I know. Don’t make general statements based only on your own experience. There are millions of people working with Linux. Always use “I can” or “I can’t”, “I know” or “I don’t know”, “I want” or “I don’t want”.

  41. You speak subjectively about things that are a matter of choice. And I totally agree with Daeng Bo.
    You speak about things you have little knowledge and enjoy spreading FUD about them.
    Not one OS or distro is perfect, but each has its strong points that you seem to miss.

  42. You are absolutely right on this one.

    I’ve attempted to use Linux for the past two years, and always go back to WinXP or Mac. The reasons are simple: 1) things work, and 2) APPLICATIONS.

    While all these geeks twiddle with their own versions of the OS, no one seems to realize how much we want to actually work with programs. How many variations of the kernel/KDE/Gnome?etc do you really need?

    Just saw an interesting take over on Apple Matters about Apple killing the Linux desktop. Look at iLife, iWork, iTunes, and the overall elegance of the other applications on the platform. Why, pray tell, would I want to do a presentation in OO Impress instead of Keynote? Why would anyone want to create a newsletter in Scibus instead of Pages or the newest Word?

    Linux is great for people who enjoy complex puzzles. Until great apps appear, without Wine or virtual machines, Linux will not be a viable desktop alternative for the masses. While it is fun to rant against things that are not “free,” average Joes are willing to pay for things that work.

  43. First thing… Ubuntu isn’t on your list… why not? It’s the second most popular on Distrowatch.com. It uses Gnome and I’ve had excellent success with it (currently using 7.10 release).

    Also, on your “just use XP instead of Vista” comment. You do realize that eventually (probably 2009) Microsoft will force you to upgrade to Vista or choose an alternate OS. It is coming and you really don’t have a choice. I suppose you can sit there and thing that by then MS will have modified Vista to allow an easier transition, but regardless there is a point in time coming that you will be upgrading to Vista… or converting to Linux or Mac OSX… you have no choice.

  44. Daeng Bo: I’m prepared to configure available options to make things more usable but I’m not prepared to wade through lengthy instructions (such as the openSUSE ATI driver page) when it still isn’t enough for Compiz to work. I’m sorry, but if I follow a long list of steps, carry them out to the letter (like I did with openSUSE), then it’s not too much to ask for a working driver at the end of the ordeal (especially after seeing Kubuntu and PCLOS work with the same card). The open-source driver, at least that which is offered by openSUSE, does not support 3D on my Radeon X300 at all.

    After a while you begin to doubt the efficacy of video driver HOWTOs written by all and sundry which is why I chose the ATI installer with Linux Mint. Apart from Mint using a desktop environment with the bare minimum of options configurable by the user, Compiz worked great with the ATI-provided driver. Why should a video driver ensure that I’ll fuck my machine on the next version upgrade? Seems to suggest that Linux is incredibly fragile indeed!

  45. So …
    You refuse to use Gnome, the desktop that is designed to work out of the box, and prefer KDE, the desktop for people who want to configure everything manually, but you didn’t want to screw around and just wanted it to work, saying “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.”

    You want to use the propritary ATI driver when the open-source driver supports 2D and 3D for your card quite well. http://xorg.freedesktop.org/archive/X11R7.0/doc/html/radeon.4.html

    You eschew the preferred way of installing the driver, because official repos are “useless,” and decide to install manually, virtually guaranteeing that you’ll fuck your machine up on the next version upgrade.

    You don’t like to follow howtos or the recommended way of doing things, apparently. Sorry Linux didn’t work out for you, but I’m not surprised.

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