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Some linux observations

27 May, 2008 (13:08) | linux


I’ve been working with linux a bit and trying to make a list of things that are holding it back from being a windows replacement. I think linux is very cool and a good tool for certain jobs. If any linux peeps happen to stop by, maybe you can get to work. I’d like to see a lot of things work in a GUI. If you are going to try to make your OS compete with a GUIfied OS, you are going to have to make your tools work with a pretty GUI. Some people work better with text, some work better with gui. Different learning styles and data presentation options don’t really make one person “smarter” than the other if the end result is the same job is done.

1. Gui permissions – In fedora and ubuntu, editing permissions on a gui is about impossible. Stupid users can barely handle permissions in the first place, they aren’t going to work it out at the command line.

2. Patches – MS is onto something good with patch tuesdays. I would like to see a standard day of the month for updates that are not critical.

3. resolution in VMs for fedora – I can’t get the resolution bigger in a vmware fedora 8 box to change for the life of me. It shouldn’t be hard. Video always seems to be a problem in linux. Some of the biggest troubleshooting sessions I’ve watched with my linux coworkers is in this area.

4. remote access to a gui – remote desktop solutions in windows are so easy. Catch up!

5. Games – pick up a copy of a linux magazine and look at the latest cool games. This is what draws in the young crowd and starts up the learning. I was just looking at a new game in Linux Format. They are excited about Eschalon Book 1????? Come on.

There is a big chicken and egg problem with all of these but I think the start is with the support in the OS before the demand and use numbers creep up.

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Comments

Comment from Paul Hudson
Time: May 28, 2008, 7:14 am

Hey!

You’ve raised some interesting points here, but I think we disagree a little.

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I agree it’s not easy to do, but I don’t think it’s impossible – in fact, I’d argue that the Linux permissions system is a great deal easier to use than the Windows permissions system, which is far too finely grained. Using Ubuntu (and I believe also Fedora), open a Nautilus (that’s the default file browser on both desktops), right-click on a file or folder that you want to change, and choose Properties. When the Properties window appears, choose the Permissions tab, and then choose the options you want people to have.

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I’m not convinced of the merits of the Patch Tuesday approach. First, it leads to Exploit Wednesday. Second, it means that some exploits can remain unfixed for over a month (ie if an exploit surfaces just days before Patch Tuesday, Microsoft doesn’t have enough time to create and test a fix for it, so it has to wait until the following Patch Tuesday). Third, it can lead to significant strain on other services as machines auto-reboot following a patch, as Skype found out about a year ago.

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I have also had some problems with screen resolution in Fedora VMs. From what I can understand, this is down to Fedora’s switch to using X.org without a configuration file (ie, everything is autodetected). I’ve never had this problem in Ubuntu or other distributions, but that doesn’t really make this any better – Fedora screws this up, and it really shouldn’t.

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Linux has had remote desktop solutions for longer than Windows has, and you have several options available to you. Did the Remote Desktop GUI under System > Preferences not work for you?

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I’m not entirely sure that a 7/10 score can be described as “excited”, but I am sure that Windows doesn’t support the latest cool games either – the rise of the Xbox, PS3 and Wii mean that it’s very rare for bestselling games to be on Windows nowadays. Even when games are cross-platform, the console versions usually outstrip the PC games in sales. PC game sales are now so bad that EA has said they won’t bother releasing Madden 09 for PC, despite it being one of their top-selling games. So, Linux is indeed pretty poor for gamers, but that’s OK – there’s a reason I bought a Wii 🙂

I’m glad you’ve taken the time to give Linux a try so you can form a balanced opinion, and please don’t think I believe Linux to be entirely without flaws – Linux has just as many problems as Windows, they’re just different kinds of problems!

Take care,

Paul

Comment from Nerd
Time: May 28, 2008, 8:45 pm

Cool! I’m honored to have a writer from an awesome Linux magazine pop in, even if it is to prove me wrong on several points. After I get done with user emails from the office, I’ll put in a few hours of work to be able to respond as a Linux Noob/windows bigot.

Comment from Nerd
Time: July 15, 2008, 6:33 am

For Pauls comments- I was procrastinating becuase both my Ubuntu VMs blew up when I ran the last kernel patch. Rebuilding was not high on my priority list.

For permissions – Ok it is easier on Ubuntu than I thought but not very rich. It is absolutely not easy on Fedora and a few other flavors. This is about the first time I’ve heard a linux guy say anything about the linux permissions being “less finely grained” than windows. Heh. I think this comment is comical. Windows having very finely grained scriptable permissions is a bad thing? Wow, is it the user who buys the product and using it improperly that causes a lot of Windows problems? Good luck when you have half my users.

I am still backing patch tuesday. If you understand it, the updates on Tuesdays are not 0 day exploit concerns. MS still releases critical updates for that at random intervals. Instead of 1 patch day to worry about and read up on in detail, I now spend a lot more time researching and scheduling installs for my Fedora boxes. Why do they tell me to restart? I thought the beauty of linux with patches is a lack of reboot even for Kernel patches.

Nice to know a good Linux nerd had the same problems with Vmware and Fedora display issues.

Ok on remote desktop, I should have done a little more digging, that was pretty easy. But still about as secure as Windows remote desktop. Both can have certificates installed to eliminate man in the middle attacks. Both are easy to whitelist IP access via firewall. Windows RDP is faster. But honestly who uses a remote gui for linux when ssh is such an obvious way to get things done. I can understand a lack of optimization, just making suggestions about luring users who think visually.

As for the Game idea- consoles have sold more since the first nintendo. But PC gaming remains a billion dollar a year industry. Show me some Linux PC sales figures to match my point. Hard core enthusiats are not being slowly wooed by cutting edge games at the same rate on the Linux side. Hence the waste of money your magazine took to print a story if they were not excited about a game.

More on the gaming idea though, you got me researching and I don’t like the slow downward slope over the last decade. I better write some MS people. Lately numbers are hard to track because companies like Valve don’t like to release their online purchases. Sites like Kongregate.com could show a per platform game play rate higher than any combination of downloadable games for consoles. How much ad revenue is generated by sites like Kongregate and Armor games?

I guess i agree to disagree on most points but learned a lot in the process. I have many more ideas about how linux can be improved to take over Windows and Mac market share. Unfortunatley I’m sure that any organization which could put it together will become corporate and defeat the purpose.

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