I Wish to Make a Complaint!


Sometimes, it's difficult to be the guy who complains when all around seem satisfied. However, criticism, when well-founded, has its place. It's an idealogical equivalent of an attack, and you sometimes make things stronger by attacking them. For example, in nature, only the hardiest and most efficient creatures win the evolution game when competition exists. The more pressure a species is placed under, the stronger it becomes. It has to.

So it is with Linux, but sometimes a sense of loyalty forces people to hold back from honest criticism. Yet I encourage people to embark on a program of criticizing Linux whenever they reasonably can. I have a favorite maxim for situations like these: you don't have to be loyal to something that is genuinely good.

My attitude is inspired by my early experiences from a time before anyone other than Linus knew what Linux was. As a British schoolboy, in the 1990s, PCs and Macs weren't that popular amongst my friends. We all aspired to own machines like the Commodore Amiga and my own dear Acorn Archimedes (the origin of the ARM processor). If you aren't familiar with these systems, and you have any interest at all in computer history, look them up. They were dynamite with a mouse attached (and a lack of adequate separation between processes). They fell over a lot but did amazing things with hardware that would seem comical by modern standards. If they were one thing, they were miles ahead of the mainstream "serious" platforms. However, odds are, you're not using one to read this.

Both platforms started out with an amazing technological lead. The Amiga had graphics that were only bettered by dedicated workstations that cost as much as a car. The processor on the Archimedes was about twice as fast as anything else on the market. When did you last hear of a new system with that much of a lead on the competition? But apart from an enthusiast community, both platforms are long dead. If you're wondering what killed them, I'll give you an answer that might surprise you: It was loyalty.

These were machines that were beloved by their users but the machines themselves quickly began to loose the massive lead they had started with. "Pah," was the cry from the forums, "why would I want more than 256 colors?". Other forum dwellers would tell you that they didn't need a faster processor, crash free multitasking and the that the Internet was a passing fad. Tragically, a loyal backbone of users were prepared to keep using their favorite platform even when it wasn't as good, and that's death for a computer platform.

Things are the same with Linux. There are some areas in which it's a bit weak. Take one of my personal annoyances: setting up the screen. Somewhere, a Linux developer probably has a perfect reference setup of monitor, graphics card and computer that works properly, but the rest of us are not so lucky. There is something very wrong with screen setup under Linux, and as often as not, I have spend far too long fiddling with text files in order to get a new install working. In short, it's just not good enough and it's a sufficiently serious problem to drive away potential new users. And yet, I've seen people almost accused of lying when they complain about this problem on the forums. Another common one is the dubious defensive logic of "it worked for me, you must be doing it wrong."

Linux has other problems as well such as poor performance in some areas (flash for example), occasional, unacceptable hardware support regressions and network setup tools that tell you that your wireless network is set up and working when it isn't. Frankly, I don't think that Mac owners would sit back and accept problems of this sort. Trust me, complain whenever you can, you're far more likely to do some good than any harm.


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Flash you say??

Anonymous's picture

How can Linux (a kernel, mind you) fix a PROPRIETARY user space app running on it? Hint: it can't.

It's stupid statements like this that make so many people disregard critique. The signal/noise ratio simply is horrific.


freds72's picture

Have been using linux for ten years, so I have seen it mature a great deal in that time.I have to say that it is very usable out of the box, and even more so by someone who makes an effort to understand it, ie , learning how to google for answers. The amount of development is a credit to the thousands of people around the world who spend time and effort, (a lot of it unpaid) to improve a product which they believe in.
Two cases which illuminate this position.
I was given a HP laserjet P1005. This is a "win printer" in that it does not have the usually great HP printer support. Two years ago I had to go searching for drivers, and compile and install them by the light of a full moon.
Now, I just plug it in, Ubuntu says I can get proprietary drivers, downloads and compiles and installs them, restart printer, good to go. And the best part is, I don't have a pop-up telling me I am using a genuine HP cartridge, such as occurs in windows.
Case two; three years ago, bought a pcmcia wireless card for an old laptop.
Unfortunately, bought the worst possible one for linux and couldn't return it.
Now, just fire up puppy on laptop; there it is, ready to go.
These are only a couple of the myriad improvements that have been made in linux over the years.
So congratulations to those who have spent the time and effort making my preferred OS much more user friendly.


I agree

Eduardo's picture

I would like to say "I Wish to Make a Complaint!" too!!!

I love Linux and all what we can do with it. I'm and will ever be a Linux enthusiast.

But I do think one of the best contribution we may can offer for Linux is to make complaints. "However, criticism, when well-founded..." Yes, well said Mr Michael.

I know I know it's not ease to create software with no errors with so many different pieces of hardware, many specifications and so on.

But if we really want to see Linux wining this battle to become the desktop and notebook market #1 choice (and I do believe it's possible!) we cannot misperceive the problems and take them solved.


Ops! winning!

Eduardo's picture

OPS! winning!

driver problem

blueparty's picture

Perhaps the most serious problem with Linux are drivers. If you buy a device which didn't exist when the kernel was compiled and shipped as part of the distribution, there is no solution but to recompile the kernel with the driver supplied by device vendor.

Average users, do not include c/c++ compiler and kernel source in their package selection. Why would they ?

+ They are not C programmers

+ They don't know what the kernel source is

+ They are not programmers at all, and the don't want to have compilers and sources occupy their disk space.

That's perfectly normal reasoning, it something that average users rightfully expect. So, I believe that binary interface for device drivers is top priority for Linux.


Ubuntu made me feel this could work.

Anonymous's picture

I just want to say as a noob, I was finally able to install Linux on my own without fear on a machine that had been running Windows. The install made sense and I didn't have to write down 3 pages of hardware settings. It did take me some time to figure out that you can save the Nvidia X configuration file so that at bootup you don't have to keep resetting your resolution. Otherwise I did not have to do a thing to get right on the Internet. Impressive in my mind.


Domel's picture

If there's one thing I can complain about in Linux is Audio. I know I'm probably going to offend a lot of good people by saying this but the Alsa and PulsAudio projects are a one big mess and could use a complete overhaul. I've been working with many different Linux distros and PC makes and model and setting up audio to work perfectly like it would in Windows is almost impossible. Sure you can get your music to play on the simple set of speakers you have for your desktop or laptop computer. But if you ever tied to get things like Microphone to work with skype or a wireless bluetooth headset you probably know what I'm talking about. I won't even mention on trying to setup a 5.1 surround sound. And I'm not even talking about some fancy, new, high end sound cards, but it many times it's the simple embedded audio chipset that creates most problems. Whats even worse is that things appear to be getting worse with the new linux distros like the newly released Ubuntu 10.04 I ended up setting up a separate laptop with Debian 5 just so I can use skype because I could not get the microphone to work my primary PC.

I will chime in my 2 cents

Treah's picture

I will chime in my 2 cents for whatever thats worth. I do think that letting the devs know about some of the issues is good but complaining about them without real evidence or knowledge on the issue will probably get you no where.

Some of the issues here really is who maintains what. Remember that many of the automated tools that are out there to auto-configure stuff actually run on command line tools, and the problem your having may not be related to the automated tool or the other way around. Its very possible the dev may not be able to resolve the issue.

In regards to this comment tho "Linux has other problems as well such as poor performance in some areas (flash for example)" Well this is a bit unfair since operating system vendors have no involvement with how flash runs since it is a proprietary product of Adobe. Many have said that flash needs to have some sort of replacement. Honestly when flash first arrived on the internet I got that bad feeling that many web developers, mostly ones using windows and mac, would fall into the extreme bad habit of using flash rather then writing proper HTML code. We can only hope that google with lead the way with a new open standard for video online and we can put flash into the grave for good.

In regards to wireless tools that area of Linux has always been lacking until recently, and in the past few years I have seen a large large improvement with it. There is however alot of very strange issues out there still that I chalk many up to auto-configure tools.

With that said I will however agree with the article that X is a bit of a conundrum. Ive never really had issues getting X working that much but I haven't really put Linux on much exotic hardware, but I have built X from scratch and believe me that some of the directions that they have taken it I think personally are regressions. Spiting it up into multiple pieces that you have to compile (there are over 100) to get to work is one of the problems. Or at least they could have developed some easy way to configure everything like how the kernel has a ncurses interface for.

X can do some amazing things, and it was built with the mindset to be running on a lot of different clients using one central server, thus the server client model. This model tho works really well it can make things a lot more complicated to code for when dealing with drivers and trying to get more advanced features working for workstations. X really was designed to run on a server and not on a stand alone desktop like we all use today, and in that sense did not go with the flow that all the other vendors went with. However I cannot think of any other alternative really, we now have vendors such as intel and nvidia stuck with X so the only thing that can be done now is keep making it better.

I am not expert in any of these things so my response is very limited on any specific kind of area. It is just some things to think about and complain about. I think it does do some good when people complain about things not working as they can lead to some improvements but it should all be in a civil way and offering some examples of how it can be improved rather then just saying well it works in such and such operating system and its easy it should be the same here.

Recent Examples

Anonymous's picture

FUD alert

FUD admin's picture

"especially when the question is about something that should be a solved problem, where and how do you complain in the most valuable way?"

I agree...
this article didn't specify neither distro and the machine, i think he should specify them if he really has a problem.

Human Nature

Fluffy The Impailer's picture


Let's talk "geek filters"

Normal humans filter what they say before they say it-- outgoing filters.
Geeks filter what they hear after they hear it-- incoming filters.

Most people assume that they are talking with someone with the same set of filters. When a geek talks with a normal, the geek tends to get impatient or bored with the normal and the normal assumes the geek is being rude.

My point:

Hence, when communicating with a package maintainer and you think that the person on the the other end is being a schmuck, it could be a difference in communication filters.
When you are communicating with an end user and you are almost impatient enough to rip off your own arm and beat him with wet end, it could be a difference in communication filters.

Me, personally, I have things that don't work sometimes, but they'll work on another distro or on a liveCD. I assume that it is *not* my distro's "fault" but that it's probably a simple entry in a default text file that just needs a little adjustment.

All of my *big* scream-and-die Linux errors have been resolved with a comparison of configuration settings between what works and what doesn't work and a simple change with emacs or vi.

Your mileage may vary, and some of the default settings on some distributions or packages may not work... but that's what makes Linux so damn *fun* for me.

Yes, I am a geek....

Re: Human Nature

Keith Daniels's picture

You didn't define a geek, at least a far as how it relates to human/geek interaction so I will give mine:

  • Geek: A person that thinks like a computer, at least as far as verbs, structure, logical rules and emotions go.

If I am going to do define geek, I guess I should define human too:

  • Human: A person who mostly thinks and solves problems using comparisons and emotions instead of logic and structure.

I have no problem with what you said (in a rather geekie syntax) in fact I agree with you. But I think you missed a couple of very basic human traits that cause many "human to geek" and "geek to human" communication problems. These traits first appeared in early childhood and seldom does the child grow out of them--geek child or human child:

I want that!
I want it now. I want it the way I want it and not the way you want to give it to me. (An adult example would be Free Software addicts.)

You didn't understand me!
So I must scream what I want at you and call you stupid--so you can for sure hear it and will work harder at understanding it. (Best example of this is North American adults when talking to a person who does not speak English.)

It's my ball we play the game my way and at a time of my choosing. (The best visual depiction of "mine" is the sea gulls at the end of the movie "Happy Feet".)

I Believe!
I believe (verified or not makes no difference) and you disagree, therefore you must be lying. (Best example of this is any fanatical religion, Open Source included.)

These traits all make information transfer between people difficult, and adding the topics below really makes geek/human interaction very difficult.

Life's Rules:

  • If you don't do it yourself--you don't get it done your way.

  • If you don't pay to have it done--you don't get it done your way. (Most of the time that doesn't work either. If you don't believe me go out and buy some Microsoft software.)

What Humans and Geeks Didn't Learn While Growing Up.

  • Free doesn't mean you get what you want--just what is free.

  • Other people care about what they want--not what you want.

  • People who give things away for free--always want something in return. In the case of geeks it appears that they want the recipient to:

    1. Praise them for what they did--which I think is only fair
    2. Learn their language, syntax and its logical structure--more work than most people "want" to go to (ignoring the fact that that would turn them into a geek, which probably is the geeks ultimate goal).
    3. Learn to do things their way without any documentation--which I think is totally unreasonable.

Things I Think Geeks Don't Understand About Communication With Humans:

Magic and Incantations

Communicating with a computer is very similar to practicing magic. When using classical magic you must know the exact "True Name" of something before your magic will work on it. With a computer, if you don't know the command name or capitalize it properly--the command won't work.

When speaking magical incantations you must say them perfectly, exactly and in the correct sequence and intonation or bad things happen (ask Micky Mouse about that). With a computer, if you don't use the correct commands, arguments and syntax--bad things happen. Yes English has syntax and logic... but humans just "use it" (sorta) and don't think about it or try to control it very often.

I have found that comparing computer commands with magic incantations helps humans realize how obsessively exact they must be when using computers. In real life you are never obsessively exact in your communication and most humans don't realize that with computers you have to be.

The effect of the concept of nesting on explaining things to humans

The only usage of the word "nesting" in English, that is similar to the way it is used by geeks, is in "nesting boxes" inside of each other which typically, is poorly understood by most humans. If you tell someone to "nest" those boxes over there, the usual response is "Huh?". Programmers needed a word to describe the type of multi-level decision logic commonly used in programs--so they choose nesting. They used a name that humans understand poorly (but did have a generic definition, i.e. nesting birds) to describe a decision logic structure. OK given that humans; 1) Don't understand logic 2) And in everyday life don't use multi-level decision structures at all (or at least they don't notice they are using them) using the computer definition of nesting or its structure in explaining things to humans does not work. Humans understand, step 1, step 2, step 3, etc. but they are not very good at following them so using the concepts of "steps" instead of nesting doesn't always work either and is usually technically incorrect.

But the real problem is not the word choice but the fact that geeks tend to describe "how to use computer software" with the concept of nesting. That is the closest match to the real structure of computer software but it is a logic which humans CAN NOT RELATE TO without training or at least exposure to and practice with. Which usually means there is no transfer of understanding between geeks and humans--only words. When I describe a "decision tree" (a phrase which humans relate to better than "nested choices" or "nested commands") to a human I always draw the structure on a piece of paper and use that chart to describe what happens.

Talking to Computers vs Humans

Geeks think that when you send a sentence to a human that they are supposed to react just like a computer does when you press enter. They are similar but not the same. A human response of "Huh?" is the same as "Error: 29.5" in a computer, the only difference is that with a human; 1) It usually doesn't cause other bad things to happen 2) it is a lot easier and faster to find out what the problem is than it is to find out what a computer "Error" message really means--even if there is documentation. So when you hear a "Huh?" expect to have to do a bit of work to figure out what the "Error" is that is confusing the human the same as you do with computer error messages.

Geeks do realize (at least some of them) that many of the words and concepts they use are totally alien to humans. What they don't realize is that a one sentence definition (usually containing other alien geekie words) is not enough to give the human the comprehension needed to understand what the geek is talking about. This is not a geek problem, it is a common problem when totally new concepts are fed to a person. For example, you want to tell someone who has never seen a cigar or cigarette, nor seen one smoked, how to smoke one. So you tell them to put it in their mouth, and they do. Why are you surprised that they stick the whole thing inside their mouth? So you finally get it positioned in their lips correctly and tell them to light it. Why are you surprised that they try to light the whole thing instead of just the outer end of it? etc., etc.....

Who learns, Who fixes, Who cares.

Many geeks think that humans should have to learn all this computer stuff. These same geeks have tried to teach humans about computers and failed, but still think you can teach everyone computerese--that even I don't understand.

Many humans think that; 1) Things should "just work" (with no more standards than we have now, no software is going to work in every machine), 2) The commands should be simpler and work the way I want in the first place (obviously they never tried to teach a newbie how to smoke or they would realize the extent of the problem), 3) I shouldn't have to "fix" (make things work my way) any software. (Historical note: Until the 1940s everyone customized the handles on their store bought hand tools. After the 1940s that habit went away and apparently so did the concept that if you want something customized for you personally--you have to do it yourself.), etc., etc...

The world and computers are very "messy" and they are both changing constantly. Changes are usually "New and Improved Messes". Sometimes they make things better, sometimes worse--but most of the time they do both. Learn to live with it!

Three important problems that have to be solved before ease of computer usage will improve dramatically:

  1. Geeks don't like writing documentation.

  2. Programmers don't like to watch a newbie use their software and they don't pay attention to why the newbie doesn't understand--they only pay attention to the questions the newbie asks and how to answer it.

  3. Standards have to be made and used by EVERYONE that is building hardware and writing software.

My opinions about the above:

  1. Geeks shouldn't write software. As a general rule it would take too much re-training in communication skills and would probably ruin them as programmers. You need another person that stands between the programmer and the user and uses input from both to write the documentation. The best documentation written by a geek (In my opinion anyway) is "Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide" - Mendel Cooper. I think most others should model their documentation after his.

  2. Programmers should be forced to test their software with newbies and instead of just writing down their questions, try to understand what the underlying issues are that are confusing the newbie and then change those in their software.

  3. Assuming that anyone is going to create and follow standards is probably impossible--given human history.

Famous Quotes:

"If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote
programs, then the first woodpecker that came along
would destroy civilization."

"The Psychology of Computer Programming"
  -- Gerald Weinberg

(Why? Lack of standards IMO.)


"Insanity in individuals is something rare,
but in groups, parties, nations and epochs,
it is the rule."

  -- Friedrich Nietzsche ( 1844-1900 )

(This does not bode well for all those computer organizations, associations and other groups trying to control and organize the computer world out there.)

No I am not a geek (or human)... I am beyond all that, just ask my relatives, whom I am trying to get neutered.

I blame it on being a webmaster for several years....

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone.
My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone."
-- Bjarne Stroustrup

Mainstream has improved.....

Alex Stone's picture

I installed the almost latest Ubuntu on my wife's computer, at her request, and it worked fine, with no additional effort on my part, save loading a few extra codecs, so she can enjoy her movies and music. She is, outside of graphic creation work she does for handcraft planning, what you would call a "standard" user. Browser, Email, Office tools, music playback, watching her dvds, is about it for generic use, and she has the GIMP for her graphic work.

I would argue that the latest "standard" distro incarnations are at the stage where a lot of historical angst is no longer applicable, BUT, there are still users who i can appreciate might not have the same experience as my wife's Ubuntu install, and i'd agree with the notion that healthy, positive, criticism, with the view of a user willing to contribute to the refinement of applications and utilities, as a good thing. Probably the single biggest inhibitor to this is the previously mentioned attitude, of indifference to the efforts of users. I'm going to open a can of worms here, no doubt, but when power users make the effort, and get indifference, or even contempt in return, often wrapped up in the phrase "It's opensource, so if you don't like it, do it yourself", then the effort seems wasted, and less likely to be repeated.

For the same reason not all devs are the same in terms of their skills, not all users will approach testing and reporting with a petulant and demanding attitude. When those users, genuinely interested in seeing Linux go forward, get dismissed with contempt, or indifference, then i can understand contributing to a particular project can become problematic. (I've had this experience, and watched others get the same.)
Not all users are idiots, contrary to what seems popular belief, and many bring not only experience in USING a wide range of apps, over many years, but the wisdom, and altrustic perception to ensure any help, observations, requests, bug reporting, and input, are mindfull of the widest range of users possible.
There's an easy fix for this, and that is to simple stop contributing to projects where the dev(s) are familiar with using indifference, and/or contempt, as tools of outright dismissal, from the perspective of "a user is just a user". I for one have spent over 20 years using apps in my particular field, and do so on a professional basis, and now, even with the current limitations, in Linux. I have colleagues at least as experienced as i, who have left linux for the attitude they were subjected to, with devs indifferent to the experience and knowledge such users bring to the linux table. Users can be idiotic sometimes in their approach to submitting bugs and requests, but the same is true for some devs too.

Linux, as i understand it, is about collaboration, and respect on both sides for a common goal to improve linux further, and bring more enjoyment and ease of use to more people.
So, is criticism good for all, dev and user alike? Yes, provided it's delivered constructively, with respect, and in the spirit of partnership, from all sides.


yoyo's picture

Your problem is not Linux. You're just obviously using the wrong distro.


estewart123's picture

Been using Linux since 1997, I admit the early days were rough getting a system up and running right, But that is the past at present. I do computer repair here and would very much rather install Linux than any other OS, just built this AMD quad core, 8 gig of ram Asus Mobo machine with a 1 ig nVidia video card with out having to have to do anything, everything worked right out of the bow with Ubuntu 10.04 64 bit and it is a beautiful running machine that is way faster at everything than the same with Win 7 on the very same hardware.

Linux is not yet there

alex1028's picture

I've also been using different distributions of GNU/Linux since 1997 and must admit it has never been perfect. Many things has changed (read: improved) since that time, but Linux still has its share of problems, for example X + GNOME either works out-of-box or needs painful tweeking, applications stop working after upgrade, networking misteriously loses connection and needs restart, compiz absorbs enormous amounts of memory, etc. etc.

Your fears might carry more

alan_q_someperson's picture

Your fears might carry more weight if it weren't for the constant improvements that keep coming down the pike. Screens are hard to configure? Two years ago they were. Between automated X11 configuration, xrandr (and it's graphical front-ends) and much improved drivers, it seems easy enough for me now. It's not perfect yet, but judging by the sheer number of bugs reported to distros and upstream projects every day I'd say there are plenty of people who are willing to "complain" in a productive way.

I don't agree that we need belligerent negativity to get things fixed. The developers don't have to be the bad guys. Some people think that writing inflammatory blog/mailinglist/forum posts, gathering a following of torch-and-pitchfork malcontents and storming the gates of the development community is the best way to get problems solved, but I've been assured by more than a few developers that it's not.

Yes, user communities are rife with ardent fans who will defend the status quo tooth and claw; I have rarely encountered this sentiment in development communities. At least, when they are approached with civility...

You're right

mesamoo's picture

On the Amiga people were so happy to get any new software that they ignored the fact that it was nowhere near as feature complete as the (lesser) competitors. Reviews went out of their way to avoid comparing software titles to the pc/mac counterparts.

I used my Amiga 1200 until 2000/2001, up to that point the hardware was perfectly adequate for my needs (comparable to pc/mac except in screen resolution, but it no longer led the way). I feel sad having to use the word adequate when it could have been so much more.

Free software, to continue its growth, needs to be willing to look the alternatives in the eye and say, "Yes I can do that" or have the honesty to say not yet. It should also be willing to blow its own horn where it surpasses other options.

As much as I have struggled with KDE4, often hating many of the design choices, I am glad to see a project that is moving to the point where other software is beginning to have to play catch up.

What about display setup?

LinuxLover's picture

Are you using the wrong distros or something? Mandriva makes screen setup a snap! Honestly... It's never let me down once. It tells me there's a proprietary driver, downloads it for me, and setup is completly GUI. Mandriva's Drake tools are simply the best. I honestly have no clue why other distros have not converted them for use on their distro instead of archane commands in a terminal and/or text file hacking. It's completely GPL code. Have you tried it before making this claim?

Amiga wasn't killed by loyalty

Anonymous's picture

Amiga was killed by Commodore who lost all their money trying to get a foothold in the PC market and they lost and went bankrupt. Simply put they didn't focus at what they were good at(The Amiga) but would try to compete with all the others in the PC market

Heh, I hate to be "one of

jaygade's picture

Heh, I hate to be "one of those guys for whom everything just works" but I guess that I am. I haven't really had to fine-tune an X/graphics setup under Linux for about ten years now. I remember having to tweak XF86Config and modelines and the like. I also remember never really getting my modem to work in the early days of dialup networking without using some kind of gui program.

However I agree with the spirit of the article. I've tried several times to move from Windows to Linux full time (and will try again, soon) but some basic admin tasks are still a little complicated under Linux.

And I, too, fondly remember the Amiga. I wouldn't blame the users for their misplaced loyalty so much as mismanagement of the company. But that, as they say, is another story.

Religious devotion

Mr. Pink's picture

I haven't really had to fine-tune an X/graphics setup under Linux for about ten years now

When you lie you become part of the problem.

I agree...10 years is stretching it

LinuxLover's picture

I've been a Linux user since 1998. I've been there with every mainstream distro that's come along, since the days Red Hat Linux was dominant, Mandrake, Suse, Ubuntu, Debian, Mepis, PCLinuxOS...the list goes on. 10 years ago, in 2000, Mandrake 7 was released and was a major game changer. Back then, even nVidia drivers could be a pain to install, unless they were installed by your retail box version of Linux. There was even work to do within the Drake tools to setup your video, and if everything went well, you had 3d setup. If you didn't buy a retail boxed version, you had to follow nVidia's guide and install the hard way, which could become complicated for some. Occasionally, there would be hiccups using retail boxed versions, as well. However, in the past 2 years, it's all but disappeared. That's not saying that Windows video is foolproof, either. There are some hiccups that happen on that side, as well.

Well, I've been playing with

jaygade's picture

Well, I've been playing with Linux on and off since '96 or '97. Ever since Mandrake, et al, I never had any problems.

Then again I never used top-of-the-line hardware either.

Like I said, with regards to graphics, things "just worked" for a long time now.

Mindless FUD

JEDIDIAH's picture

> When you lie you become part of the problem.

FUD and nonsense.

Even "back in the day" I had relatively little trouble with Xfree86 and video cards. Of course I have always tended to avoid the absolute dregs or the bleeding edge. These days, hardware support is even better and so is autoconfiguration. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the basic underlying technology has gotten a lot better (PCI-foo vs. VLB or ISA).

I will chime in with a "me too" and "works for me".

Short of TVs that broadcast bogus PnP info, I haven't had any problems setting up video in Linux in a very long time.

If you are having problems, perhaps you could like actually mention what the problem child hardware is so that the rest of us can steer clear.

If it doesn't at least vaguely resemble a bug report than no one can do anything about it.

Come on NOW!

Mint Alaska's picture

I am one too that has never had a problem setting up Graphics on a linux box! Maybe just lucky? But no lier! You should not call people names cause of your own bad experience!


A Non Y mous(E)'s picture

No one would "lie" about something so basic to the user experience. Over the last few years I have done at least 50 installs of Linux distributions (mostly Ubuntu Mandriva and Suse based). Aside from some laptop wireless adapter troubles early on installation has been trouble free. I truly feel sorry for anyone that needs to spread FUD about Linux being difficult to install and use. The few times that problems do occur are repeated forever as the "norm" for Linux installs. Clean installs of other OS are rare and have just as many glitches. Other OS are pre-installed on the computer when purchased. Try buying a Linux system from System 76, Zareason, or Dell. It will be completely configured and "Just Work" like any Windows or Mac system. When you spread FUD you ARE THE PROBLEM!!!


scott@youdidwhat.org's picture

I have been working as a Linux Admin for almost 10 years. All I can say is thank you for saying it!!!! I like the Freedom of Linux, but sometimes all I want is it to just work.

Constructive criticism is usually good

smotsie's picture

I agree with some of what you write, in that criticism / complaints of a constructive nature help any developer prioritise available time. IMHO the very best "complaint" one can make is filing good quality bug reports - I recently filed a number on Ubuntu 10.4 betas, and by the time it was released they had all been fixed.

I do _not_ agree with your Apple comparison. Firstly, Apples crash. Really. The idea that they are immune to all ills is often bandied about by Apple fanbois, but I have experienced first hand and by association with others many occasions when Apple systems have failed to live up to expectation. Secondly, they have only Apple approved hardware on which to run. If Linuxers only had one manufacturer of hardware to cope with, don't you think Linux would be every bit as good (and probably a whole load better) as anything coming out of Cupertino.

Finally, I must have been very lucky, because apart from one horrendous upgrade a couple of years ago I have rarely had video problems (and certainly nothing compared with the many I have had in my windows days). I have run Linuxes on Nvidia, ATI and random cheap video hardware and it almost always "just works"

Thanks for a though provoking article.


Here too.. Outside of one

aitd's picture

Here too.. Outside of one major install problem with a poorly burned ISO, video has never been a problem. If it needs tweaking, it gets tweaked, problem solved. Usually, everything just works.

Maybe the MS'ers are right?

FreeBooteR's picture

The problem lies between the chair and the keyboard. You didn't get your GNU/Linux pre-installed like a Mac or Windows from some big box. If you move to GNU/Linux your doing it to be free, if you don't care about freedom, stick with the proprietary garbage. I have installed many Ubuntu installs and Archlinux and was always able to solve my problems by reading the fine manual or perusing forums.

There is always room for improvement and GNU/Linux improves continuously. It takes some effort to be free.

"Frankly, I don't think that

chris_f's picture

"Frankly, I don't think that Mac owners would sit back and accept problems of this sort. "

Frankly, Linux users wouldn't pay US$2000+ for a desktop either.

Glaring Logical Error: Loyalty in the Linux world is different in that Amiga users' complaints went unheard by the developers back in the Commodore days. Also, the hardware and software were bespoke; there was no option to switch to Nvidia/ATI/Intel. The ignorance of the possibilities back in Amiga's nascent period combined with loyalty for a closed ecosystem was what took it out of the running. Linux is open-source and runs on commodity hardware; as long as it remains so it will not suffer the same fate.

In addition, while the ARM blew a lead that only the Chicago Cubs could screw up, it has made a big resurgance by finding a very profitable niche in mobile devices, so I'm not calling that one dead due to loyalty.

“Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.” – Bertrand Russell
Windows Anonymous -- The first step is admitting you have a problem

$2000 for a desktop is too much?

Anonymous's picture

I dunno about that. I built a quad Opteron (dual dual-core) desktop for about that much. And when that Asus m-board died a couple years later, I replaced it with PhII 965 quad core board. I don't like waiting for stuff to compile. :)

As to the author, he's made a good point; but I'll offer a counterpoint. If something is wrong, report it. But to whom? If you merely ask if a certain behaviour has been seen before on version X, the standard reply will be, "We don't support that version. It's too old. It's buggy. Upgrade. Then ask us again." Prithy tell me which software package does not have bugs. And what do you report? "It's broke. Make it go."?

It's gotten to where

  • I just can't be bothered to ask if something's a problem before reporting it,
  • I don't have the time to spend 5 hours sifting through 10,000 bug reports to see if one of them happens to be remotely similar to the symptoms I encountered, and
  • I have better things to do with my time than tolerate being berated by arrogant pr..ks who should never be allowed to interact with the public.

Instead, I simply avoid the actions that invoke the problem, or I use different software, or I find a different solution to the problem.

Neal P. Murphy
Salem, Virg.

you got it

Teresa's picture

Neal, I'm with you. I use Linux to the best of its or my ability. I work with it daily and I use it at home. Something has to be working right for it to be a stable environment for my hundreds of users.

At home, on my own time, I play with a lot of different distros because they all offer different things out of the box. The best part about Linux is the freedom to configure things just as I like them.

As for a Linux desktop that does it all for you, Xandros or Linspire are about as close as you get. No matter what, if you want to use a different OS, you're gonna have to put some effort into it. Just pick the distro for your level of effort.


Anonymous's picture

So you want to:

  • use unsupported software for free
  • get support / bugfixes for it
  • not spend any time on asking for support / bugfixes yourself properly, but rather have others spend their (often unpaid) time on it
  • still get treated friendly by the ones you bother with these unreasonable demands?

But how do you complain productively?

GBGames's picture

I agree that complaining can help, especially in the form of feedback that illuminates bugs or problems.

But how do you complain without simply whining pointlessly? If the best response you get to an innocent question is RTFM or "It Works on My Machine(TM)", especially when the question is about something that should be a solved problem, where and how do you complain in the most valuable way?

Simple, as you said yourself

Anonymous's picture

Simple, as you said yourself feedback or bug reports are very valuable and developers do want to have those.

The point to consider is, not all feedback or bug reports are good or useful and it's not easy to make them good. That's ok too, developers know this, you don't have to deliver perfect reports. But there may be some kind of quality standard for the forum or tracker in question. You can't post the same crap to the kernel mailing list that you can post to the ubuntu beginner forum. You just have to find out what those standards are. Also, not matter what the standard is, if it looks like you haven't spend any effort at all it is a sign of disrespect: now the developer should expend that effort you didn't want to make.

Although useless reports are an annoying timesink and whining can demotivate, good reports are extremely helpful and highly desirable for developers. Devs (should) appreciate that.

Linux woes

DJ's picture


I agree that the display setup is probably the biggest weakness in Linux. I'm a little loathe to complain, since I should offer a suggestion for an complaint. But being a relative noob when it comes to the nuts and bolts of Linux, I don't think I could in good conscience be too critical if I can't help solve the problem. In looking at the alternative (Microshaft), I don't have much to complain about. :-D

Two other areas where improvement could be made are wireless networking and printer/scanner compatibility. However, from what I've seen, this seems to be more of a problem of the vendors not releasing information about their devices/drivers so the talented Linux community can develop open source drivers. This is one reason why I try support/purchase products from any vendor/manufacturer who has the smarts to support open source.

Subscribing to Linux journal is one of the best steps I have ever taken to understand the inner workings of Linux. It will take some time, but one of these days, just maybe, I'll be one of the 'big dogs' who will be able to contribute back to the community...



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