An article was recently bought to my attention, it was titled “11 Reasons Linux Sucks” by John Morris. Now while this post isn’t an attack on John, I do feel its worth correcting him on a few of his points as he seems rather confused. I understand his points and see his heart is in the right place but feel these kind of posts do nothing to help people understand the Linux community and the software as a whole.
So lets take a look at John’s list an see if we can help him out.
Reason 1: It’s Complicated
Linux is more complex than Windows or OS X. Sure, once you are familiar with Linux and its idiosyncrasies, it’s not hard to use. But the initial learning curve is steep.
As with several of the upcoming entries, this problem isn’t as severe as it was a few years ago. There are now a handful of distributions that work straight out of the box for most people, and setting them up is only slightly more difficult than a recent copy of Windows.
But even with those improvements, new users must, at least, sift through all the available distributions to find the easy ones, learn how to download the right install image, learn to burn the image to a disc or create a bootable USB thumb drive, get to the install portion, and decipher what each prompt is asking.
This is not an insignificant hurdle for many people. Good Linux users are good because they experiment and seek more information. If you are unable, or unwilling, to learn and work through Linux’s complexities, you may want to avoid Linux.
John, while I understand change is never easy. To say Linux is complicated is a little unfair, as in many cases it’s more simple and straight forward than Windows. I think what might be more appropriate to say “When used to Windows idiosyncrasies it’s very hard to change how you think!”
Or of course maybe you’re not using the right Linux distribution, try some form of Arch!
Reason 2: You’re Alone… Almost
How many Linux users are there? It’s difficult to pinpoint this exactly, but relatively speaking, it is safe to say not many.
Problems you encounter are your responsibility to fix. You can’t pop into any computer repair shop with your Debian rig and get help. The only help you’re going to get is through Linux forums, IRC channels, mailing lists, and occasionally fantastic Linux blogs such as Down To Earth Linux.
Not everyone has a problem with this. I fix my own computers, and vastly prefer talking via typed messages over the Internet, than in person or over the telephone. It’s my mindset. But for many, this is horrible and a valid reason to avoid Linux.
Did you know Dell, System 76 and Station X all sell Linux PC’s, guess who supports them? And there are loads of forums out there, hundreds! I heard about this article through the Linux Gamer Group on Discord for crying out loud!
Though you are right about walking into a shop to get a PC fixed, but then most PC repairs are computers full of viruses and that’s not such a big problem on Linux.
Reason #3: It Changes Constantly
At it’s popularity peak, the Ubuntu distribution looked something like this:
It was sleek, lightweight, polished, and easy to use. Since the first versions of Ubuntu, the layout and workflow hadn’t changed much. Each update included small tweaks and improvements, there were a few color scheme changes, but everything was largely consistent and familiar.
Less than one year later, Ubuntu releases looked like this:
Ubuntu opted for a radically different user interface, called Unity, that was buggy as hell (it’s much more stable now).
This isn’t a purely Ubuntu problem, and it isn’t restricted to user interfaces. Linux distributions often make radical changes that break or change things you used to do with your computer. Again, this is not as bad as it was a few years ago, but it is still a problem.
Come on John, Unity was introduced in 2010 and is still about now, though not for long. Even then you could use Ubuntu Gnome if you wanted the old style. You can’t say it’s always changing when comparing it to Windows ether, Windows 7,8,8.1 & 10 all have completely different interfaces! Or did you not notice? Also some see variety as a good thing.
Reason #4: Pointless Competition
Wayland or Mir? Gnome Shell, KDE, Cinnamon, Unity, XFCE, MATE, or LXDE? OpenOffice or LibreOffice? Banshee, Amarok, or Rythmbox?
This is one of the few entries in the list that is getting worse, not better. A short while ago, there were two major desktop environments, Gnome and KDE. Each had its own strengths and weaknesses, and were distinct from the other. Now, Gnome Shell, KDE, Cinnamon, Unity, XFCE, MATE, and LXDE are all major desktop environments… and most do damn near the same thing.
Why start Cinnamon from the ground up when some configuration tweaks to Gnome Shell could have accomplished the same thing? Why did they reinvent the wheel?
How about the much-lauded Wayland and Mir display server? What major feature does Mir have that Wayland does not? They do the same thing! Why are we making two products?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe competition is great. But only when a competitor improves upon the other’s limitations. Gnome was fast and simple, but it was plain and offered limited customization. KDE offered all the shiny widgets and customization that Gnome lacked, but it was more complex and resource intensive because of it. Each served a distinct purpose and catered to a specific audience.
What purpose and audience does Cinnamon have that Gnome Shell can’t fulfill? All these pointless competing products make it difficult for Linux promoters to make clear recommendations, and make it difficult for newcomers to figure out what the hell is going on.
Like I say for some of us variety is a strength. But I do wonder John, if you have an issue with Final Cut, Adobe Premier, Resolve, Sony Vegas and Light Room as they all do a similar things but in there own way? Think about it John, we all have different wants and needs, we do things differently as should our software.
Reason 5: Mediocre Hardware & Peripheral Support
While you can run Linux on a wider variety of exotic systems than its competitors, it often chokes on common hardware. It’s not Linux’s fault. Many hardware manufacturers don’t provide support for Linux, so developers are left to reverse engineer support.
But, that doesn’t mitigate the annoyance. You can’t simply purchase any video card that plugs into your computer. That wireless card in your laptop? There’s a good chance that will give you some trouble. Oh, you bought a digital camera? I hope it doesn’t require any special drivers or software to get the pictures off.
John, John, John, Please get off Ubuntu! Please, I’ve been there too, I understand. The solution is the Arch based Antergos, I promiss it will make it all better.
Reason 6: It’s Slow
Okay, it’s not slow. It’s just not fast anymore. The current version of Ubuntu runs slower on my powerful gaming desktop than 8.04 (Hardy Heron) did on my then old Pentium 4 laptop. It’s kind of sad that I no longer notice any performance difference between the most recent version of Fedora and Windows.
In order to get that lightweight, snappy feeling back in my computer, I need to use a distro built on simplicity and speed, such as CrunchBang, or use a barebones distro such as Arch and add in everything myself.
Again, it’s not exactly slow. But it’s no longer a given that it will rocket past Windows and OS X like it used to. This was a huge selling point to Linux!
“Tired of the bloated feeling of Windows Vista? Throw on the easy to use Ubuntu and your computer will kick ass again!”
Now that’s gone.
“Well, it’s still kind of fast, but on a computer that old, it will struggle. If you really want speed, you can try a different distro that’s not as resource intensive, or upgrade your computer.”
FFS! I feel like an iPhone salesman apologizing for an iOS update that crippled everyone’s old iPhone.
John, as software becomes more advanced it becomes more intensive. Windows 93 didn’t use as much ram as Windows 10, this is progress. But if you feel Linux is slow I would question your hardware as mine runs it amazingly.
Here, take a look. . .
Oh, this quick video was made in Linux by the way!
Reason 7: Programs Suck
Okay, they don’t exactly suck, particularly since most of them are free. But in many areas the competition is so much better.
Let me give you an example. I am an engineering student, and I absolutely need Windows. Linux programs for computer aided engineering are garbage compared to the competition like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Catia. And there is no sign this will change any time soon.
And it’s not just engineering. How about video editing? You can not do serious, professional video editing on a Linux rig. You need Windows or OS X.
Office work? Everyone keeps saying how great LibreOffice is, but for many tasks, Microsoft Office is the only way to go. Complex Excel operations do not transfer over to Calc. Heavily formatted Word documents break completely. And outside LibreOffice, Evolution and Zimbra are not suitable replacements for Microsoft Outlook in even the smallest enterprise setting.
Linux can not replace Windows or OS X for many people because the software is so lacking. Once you start getting out of servers, supercomputers, or strictly generic web surfing desktops, the software choices are poor at best.
While I can’t comment an engineering software, I can on video editing and its really not bad. We have a few options including the professional editing software da vinci resolve used by film makers.
I also have some bad news for you about Microsoft Office, Microsoft are pushing users to their online version and will slowly be dropping support for other versions. You can use office online with Linux by the way.
Reason 8: Gaming
A couple of years ago, gaming on Linux was a joke. There were a few open source games that, while fun, were nothing compared to the Call of Dutys, Battlefields, Skyrims, and Grand Theft Autos of the day. Yes, there were a handful of people that they got their game working on Wine by spending 3 days configuring it and accepting defeat on certain features. But serious gamers never bothered to go through all that work.
Today, things are definitely better. Ubuntu, Steam, and others are working hard on making gaming not only possible, but decent on Linux. Unfortunately though, it still has a long way to go before contending with Windows. A serious gamer could not live on Linux.
I think I don’t really need to state my opinion on this subject, just look at the title of my website. But as for Wine may I direct you to a YouTuber called HexDSL and his video’s on Lutris. This will take all the hassle out of setting up games on wine. Also on a side note I wouldn’t bring up the “Serious Gamer” comment to him, he might take it personal.
Reason 9: It’s Free
This is one of Linux’s greatest strengths… and greatest weaknesses. Let’s put aside the moral, ethical, and philosophical aspect (I’ll get to that in a minute), and deal strictly in reality.
Developers need money to eat, and with a few notable exceptions, Linux and Linux software doesn’t provide it. With their money and will, Microsoft had about 1000 highly skilled developers working full-time on Windows 7. These developers worked as a cohesive, managed unit all working towards the same goal, and produced a great product in a short period.
Linux, on the other hand, is a mixture of code, some of it 20+ years old, from millions of developers of varying talent, working on whatever the hell they feel like. Now don’t get me wrong. That a powerful and functional operating system is the result of this chaos is fantastic and awe-inspiring.
But, it kind of sucks. It means Linux is always on shaky ground. There are never enough talented developers working together on enough of the operating system. And when something does gain significant progress and momentum, it often fragments into multiple projects all doing exactly the same thing (see reason #4) because there is no unifying vision or management.
Probably the most professional, well-organized, and best part of Linux, it’s kernel, is heavily invested in by companies like Red Hat, Intel, and IBM. And subsequently, most of the kernel is written by developers paid to do it.
You know Linus Torvalds still works on Linux right? I would highly doubt any code from 20 years ago that had issues would still be in there. There are thousands of developers on Linux, and even if there weren’t it still holds its own against Windows perfectly fine.
Reason 10: Philosophy Versus Practicality
Now on to the ethical, moral, and philosophical aspects I dismissed in reason #9. A large portion of the Linux community like Linux for philosophical reasons. They fundamentally disagree with the principal of closed source and/or for-profit software.
And there is an equally large part of the Linux community that doesn’t care at all. They like Linux because it works best for what they want to do. They don’t care if they use proprietary drivers from evil corporations. They don’t care if the software is closed source. They will pay for software if it is worth paying for. Linux just happens to fit their current needs.
Whichever camp you fall into, you find the other side supremely frustrating. If you’re a practical user like me, it’s annoying that MP3 files don’t play out-of-the-box in some distros because of some philosophical licensing debate. If you’re a philosophical user, you hate that some distros throw your beliefs under the bus in favor of saving users 2 minutes of time.
This schism in the community only reinforces the other divisions and rivalries discussed above, frustrates newcomers to the operating system, and provides yet another reason to avoid Linux.
I don’t find it frustrating, I think you should use what you want to use. It’s the feeling I get from the fellow users I have any dealings with too. There are always arguments to be had, but I would say the Intel/AMD fanboys have far bigger arguments and that’s unaffected by OS.
Reason 11: The Community
When members of the community aren’t being reasonable, polite, and helpful, they are complete jerks. Forums are filled with infighting, unhelpful responses, and downright nastiness. And by filled, I mean you occasionally stumble across these posts.
Okay, enough with the jokes. Yes, the majority of the Linux community is helpful and civil. Maybe a bit abrupt, but not mean-spirited.
But it is not uncommon for miniature wars to erupt for dumb reasons. If you are outspoken about flaws or problems with Linux, or open source in general, you can expect severe verbal attacks, and possibly much worse. If you begin contributing to open source projects, your contributions will likely be ridiculed at one point or another. Hell, one of the towering figures in the open source community, the creator of Linux himself, Linus Torvalds, is a well-known asshole who viciously berates people on regular occasions.
Let me formally invite you to the Linux Gamers Group, come join us and you’ll find yourself welcomed, be offered our friendship. This growing community is an encouraging, warm and safe environment for all those who use Linux. Find us on Discord.
OK, so I know I’ve been somewhat direct and single minded in my responses to your points John. But the issue is so were you, you didn’t see outside the box and I would question how well researched this post was. I’m sure this article was written with the best intentions and you were trying to help not hinder, but I honestly believe this would scare off users who would be really happy on Linux.
In today’s market the average user wants to browse the web and write the odd document, in many cases this would be fine if not better on Linux as there is less chance of viruses. I’m not saying Linux is the wonder software to fix everything, but between Windows and Linux I do believe it to be the better option.
If you ask most enthusiasts why they run Windows they will often tell you they have to because of this or that program, the truth is that’s not the case for the most part these days. But articles like yours continue to push this miss conception and damage the Linux community.