During the majority of my time working with computers, Windows was the operating system of choice. Reason being, it’s all I’ve known. In 2002, I took a college course titled “Linux Administration” which entitled me to a few cd-roms of Redhat 7.x. While this course was nothing more than a few extra credits for me, I fell in love with Linux and went through the entire textbook a week into the class. It was a nice feeling to use something “different” than what I was used to.Disclaimer: Some of this article may seem as if I am dissing Linux, quite the opposite, I love it, but I feel that it could be much better.
Since then, Linux has always resided on my 20GB hard drive. (My 80GB drive used for Windows). The smaller of the two hard drives housed whatever Linux Distribution I was using at that particular week, depending on what mood I was in. As time went by, I grew tired of Microsoft breathing down my neck. Until recently, I didn’t have internet access (checked email from a college computer) so upon reinstalling Windows XP a number of times, my software indicated I needed to call Microsoft to get a new product key. I had to walk to a pay phone and dial the 1-800 number and explain to the representative on the phone that I only had it installed on one machine. At that point, I had it, I needed “freedom” to use my computer as I see fit, and began trying to find a Linux distro I could migrate to.
Most recently, Linux is now housed on my 80GB drive, leaving 20GB for Windows 2000 (I had it with the activation of Windows XP) and the partition for Windows 2000 is now used primarily for gaming. At this time, I am switching back and forth between Fedora 2.0 and Suse 9.1, having a hard time deciding which one to stick with, although I am leaning more toward Suse.
Using Linux primarily now, I see more and more that I think could use improvement. First and foremost, usability. Mind you, I am a geek, so I am able to use Linux regardless, no matter if I have to compile from source or search for an RPM on Google. My point is, I shouldn’t have to.
Installing packages is my biggest gripe about Linux. Sure, I could use Apt-get to install everything, but what happens if I forget to pay my internet bill? I can’t install anything, then. One of the things that makes Windows so popular is that if you download a setup program and activate it, it installs your new software without a hitch, providing the developer made it compatible with your system.
In my opinion, the way RPM’s are handled is excuseless. Why should I search for a dependency, then search for a dependency for that dependency? It’s annoying. I think there should be a “new” kind of RPM (Maybe call it “Enhanced RPM”, or ERPM or along those lines) that contains all the dependencies you may need for that program. If the dependencies in the package are necessary, the system installs them. I may be behind the times, but I don’t think this exists yet, and it’s unfortunate.
The more I use newer revisions of the Linux operating system, the more impressed I get. For example, KDE 3.2, abosolutely amazing. KDE 3.2 contains all of which made the previous versions such a hit (as far as I know), and improved upon everything. To me, that’s what all operating systems should be, instead of “Get a new Windows version, search for all of your software updates to install on the new version”.
While KDE improved on the GUI, it doesn’t seem like anything was done on the “ease of use” feature, to install a program, it still takes 20-30 minutes of research on Google, as of the time of this writing APT isn’t working too well right now.
In the same manner, when you install Windows, you install the core operating system with nothing extra. For the most part, you insert the cd-roms of your applications and install them, if necessary. The core Windows OS is on one cd-rom. I installed Suse 9.1 last week, and not only did it have 5 cd-roms, I also had to choose from a list of hundreds of programs, to make sure I would have all dependencies resolved. I would like much better a one cd Linux distribution, that contained nothing but the core OS and a Window Manager, with support for “ERPMS” that would work on the fly.
Upgrading software in Linux is another thing that could use a facelift, back when I was using Fedora Core 1, installing KDE 3.2 was almost a rite of passage, but I did get it installed, but not without totally destroying my Gnome configuration. God help me if I wanted to upgrade that as well! In a similar subject, I still cannot get my joystick to work manually, however, the newest Fedora and Suse versions do this for me right out of the box, which is a huge step toward usability, and is definitely a step in the right direction.
Now, this article, as I said before, is not to diss Linux. Sure, it’s hard to use, but as I said, I’m a geek, I like a challenge. Even though it’s annoying to resolve dependencies all day, the feeling I get out of getting something to work more than makes up for it. However, if I was not a geek, I would have thrown my computer out the window by now. Aside from that, I will continue to get to the point where I can migrate to Linux completely.
With Windows Longhorn fast approaching, the Linux community has 1-2 years to get everything in order. If no improvements are made, casual PC users will buy/download Longhorn as soon as it’s released and ask questions about stability and how proprietary it is later. (That’s what Desktop Linux needs to focus on, the “casual User”. In order to thwart Microsoft, we need a Linux version that does everything it does and better. Microsoft’s ease of use plus Linux, equals the best Operating System the world has ever seen, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s in development yet.