Linux sucks

First of all: A sincere apology:

This is gonna scare lots of my readers away (all two them!) but then again, I just have to do this rant. If you’re not into computers, just skip this posting. Though don’t be afraid, it will be a one-time exception.

No, seriously, just skip it!

So I’ve installed Linux on my box at the office. It’s not that I was eager to do it, in fact I think that Linux on the desktop sucks. Big time. However I just had to do it. I had to implement some stuff using a functional programming language, the whole toolchain, everything was available for Linux primarily. The only real available IDE was by using emacs together with a mode programmed for that language. I could have installed Cygwin but that’s just even more a pita.

I should first note that it’s not that I don’t know Linux, that I am a newbie who doesn’t know. I did it all. Seriously. I DID IT ALL. The first version of Linux I remember using was a stripped-down version of Suse 6.0 (Suse was always quite big in Germany), I got that version bundled with Michael Kofler’s great book „Linux: Installation, Configuration and Use“. I also bought the boxed versions of Suse 6.1 and 6.3. That must have been around 1998 or something. Later I’ve adminstered servers running debian – I’ve installed debian, updated debian (yes, there are cases when big version upgrades fail and mess the system), installed apache, played around with iptables, installed postfix, installed courier and set up virtual mail-user accounts so that courier reads out the usernames and password out of an mysql table, I’ve set up cronjobs, programmed perl-scripts to read out undocumented snmp-data… seriously, I’ve done it all.

I remember that back then in 1998 after the installation was done the first thing I did was to install the Windows TrueType Fonts (Times, Arial & Courier New) because boy, the default fonts looked so horrible. Web pages rendered incredible ugly and surfing the web was a really painful experience.

Fast forward ten years and the first thing I did after installing Ubuntu was to install the Windows True Type Fonts (Times, Arial & Courier New) because boy, the default fonts looked so horrible, web pages rendered incredible ugly and surfing the web was really a painful experience.

Then I had to set up Japanese input. First, there are like 4 or more ways to set up Japanese input. scim and skim and they work with either canna or anthy or whatnot. Fortunately there is a tutorial available how to do that in Ubuntu (Tut) and it involves only 16 steps or so of which 14 make you use the commandline. (By the way those guys who laugh about Vista’s UAC, just look at the tutorial: You have to use like three or four times sudo. You just copy shell-commands from a random webpage and execute them on your system. If a newbie does this, certainly without really understanding everything, how is this different from clicking „yes“ everytime UAC pops up?)

In Windows you go to the Control Panel, go to Language settings, make a mark for adding support of East-Asian Languages and then with three clicks or so add the Japanese Input. Maybe you have to reboot, I don’t know but after that everything just works. Even my girlfriend who is _really_ _not_ into computers was able to do that (for german). Completely BY HER OWN. She didn’t even asked me, I just happend to use her computer and wtf? german input? and she was like „umh btw. I made it so I can write german“)

I wonder if she could have done that under Ubuntu… eh.. NOT

Note the ubuntu tutorial which states „Go to System / Administration / Language Support and select Japanese. This should install the basics.“

The basics? wtf? Why the basics? If I add support for Japanese for my system, is it so strange to assume, that I MIGHT ALSO WANT TO INPUT Japanese or just read it?

In a second step I had, of course, to copy over the Japanese Fonts of Windows (MS Mincho and MS Gothic) to make it somehow readable. The default fonts are really really horrible. After that I had to fight hard to make Firefox render web pages properly. The whole font settings and selections were very weird and I had to look up the settings of a windows system, write them down and enter them into linux.

There is more. As a foreigner I got used to the benefits of Japanese Handwriting recognition. There is a tremendously good engine available in Windows (Just switch to japanese input and then select down in the Taskbar „IME Pad“ and then „Handwriting“). This engine is so good that it recognizes even my horrible writing when using a mouse. Seriously, try it, it magically recognizes every Kanji you write, no matter how horrible you draw with the mice. The only thing that has to be right is the number of strokes, the rest is figured out by the engine.

There isn’t nearly something as good under Linux. There is tomoe, but that even failed when some native japanese guys tried it out. So everytime I have to look up a word now, I either have to reboot or „convince“ tomoe that the stuff I wrote is in fact Japanese.

Also there is this weird distinction in Linux between the Keyboard-Layout and Japanese-Input – which probably makes sense from a certain technical standpoint but is very confusing for the user. As a user I just think „My computer should be able to use This&That Language“ and that’s the way users are going to approach a problem. It might not even be a problem if you _just_ want to add Japanese input, however it _is_ a problem when the computer you use has a US-Keyboard, you however use a german-keyboard-layout since you type with ten fingers but you expect the Japanese-keyboard-layout to write Japanese since you got used to it. So you have to look in the Keyboard-Settings and specifically also add a Japanese Keyboard-Layout.

There are other things that sucked. For example during the installation – I did a netinstall from usb, since my box is a subnotebook and there is no CD-Drive – Ubuntu got confused with the partitions and installed grub to the usb-stick. I then had to manually edit menu.lst in the grub folder. However the standard-way of installing grub (grub -> root (hd0,0) -> setup (hd0) always gave me „Error 17: cannot mount the partition). I’ve googled it up everywhere in the net and I still don’t know what the _real_ problem is (the error didn’t come up during boot time but when I had already booted up Ubuntu and tried to update). Strangely the update-grub-script worked, it however always updated the menu.lst with settings it assumed to be correct. Which weren’t. I’ve played around with this a lot, did several re-edits of menu.lst and after the third or fourth bootup (always by using the usb-stick) it finally worked out. A typical user who just wants to user his computer is certainly NOT being able to do this on his own.

Then I was curious and wanted to try out KDE4. BIG mistake. See I didn’t liked it, it’s just too new and there were some really weird bugs with Ubuntu, like the Taskbar halfway off the screen etc. So I decided to unistall. I uninstalled the meta-packaged and it removed like 300 KByte. Eh.. the installation was like a 1GB so.. I tried to find out which packets to uninstall, found a list in the ubuntu-forums and gave it a try, selecting package after package until… until there was some weird dependency going on and libc was removed.

The whole system was completely f**** up. network down, apt not working anymore etc. I had to reinstall and redo everything.

There are several other issues as well that I ran into, all in all it took a week or so to set everything up. My point is: It’s all about the nifty details. With Linux, no one gives a shit about the nifty details – well except the users of course. But no one really overviews the whole language suport thing from a broad user-centric perspective. It’s just a big hack, where there seems to be no central point in coordinating everything and putting everything together in a nice way.
Also something like designing great-looking fonts and a really good handwriting recognition engine… It just won’t happen imho. Doing such work is really boring and repetitive, no one is going to do that happily in their free-time. It takes an incredible amount of work, you have to define recognition parameters for every single japanese character, test for a single recognition, re-test, re-define, check if the recognition works if deciding between several characters etc.
At least it didn’t came from the community in the last ten years, similar to the font thing. Windows Vista is way ahead in this context, they even included new Japanese fonts that work with subpixel-smoothing (e.g. ClearType). And under Linux you’re happy after copying and installing the old, XP fonts.

The only guys who could probably do this are the makers of the distribution, but they usually don’t have the manpower for this desktop stuff. Also there seems to be no real interest for them to do heavy work on the desktop. No one makes any significant money from Linux on the desktop. Redhat, Suse everyone is putting things in a community project – there is no money in the desktop, just in the server market. Also, I mean I remember, Suse 6.1 was about 70DM (35€ nowaday), I think 6.3 was alread 45€ and updates were coming like every six-to twelve month. Compare that Windows, where I have my XP license since release, thats what, 7 years now with several free udpates. And I can still install my ’98 version of WordPerfect on it – try that with the software that came with my Suse 6.1.

So what’s my point? Linux sucks on the desktop, and this won’t change in the near future.

And by the way I didn’t say that Windows doesn’t suck; in fact it does but in a very different, imho less annyoing way.

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2 Antworten to “Linux sucks”

  1. Sparky Says:

    Dude, get a Mac ;).

  2. admin Says:

    you’re so right and I’m so broke 🙂

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