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A Linux User Goes Back 1852

An anonymous reader says "A friend of mine recently switched to using Windows XP after three and a half years of Linux. I thought the community might benefit from reading his story. Even as a dedicated Linux user, I agree with many of his points. 'Unix on the desktop" has come along way in recent years, yet could still stand much improvement. It is no longer an issue of having a fancy GUI (KDE can't get much better), but rather the real problems lie in the foundation.' Some of his points are wrong, but it's a reasonable article.
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A Linux User Goes Back

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  • by djsable ( 257312 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:45PM (#3858189) Homepage

    that should keep you guys posting for days!
    • by Oscaretto ( 591824 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:38PM (#3858775)
      I read article with attention... That guy did only a mistake... Switching back. He MUST switch to Apple and Mac OS X. Unix-based OS on a user friendly platform... Linux is NOT a system for productivity at all... Not yet... and nobody seem intentioned to do this... Remeber a T-Shirt: "Linux for programming, Mac for productivity, Windows for solitaire...
  • Denial? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:46PM (#3858198) Homepage Journal
    Some of his points are wrong, but it's a reasonable article.

    Isn't the first step denial??

    I'm joking, I'm joking.

    Actually, I'm surprised /. has posted this article. I'm impressed by the maturity of the staff to do so.

    Now everyone else be mature and comment instead of flame, k?
    • Re:Denial? (Score:3, Funny)

      by daeley ( 126313 )
      I'm impressed by the maturity of the staff to do so.

      Come on, Josh. We all know maturity = agreesWithMe.

      Joking, joking. ;)
      • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Thursday July 11, 2002 @04:32AM (#3863030) Homepage

        Here's the e-mail I sent to dude:


        Saw the mention on Slashdot.

        While I agree and feel you're 100% right, I'm migrating from Windows 2000 to Linux.

        The issues you raised are completely valid, but not being the average home user, they don't bother me that much, especially in the face of the headway Microsoft is making in its (assumed) goal of Internet domination.

        I can't say that I blame you:

        • Any alternative operating system has to expect to be run on the hand-me-down boat anchor before being run on the user's main workstation. As someone who had a fscking UUCP e-mail address (I was on the 'net in 1988, boys and girls!), I was reasonably familiar with Unix. And yet, my first install of Red Hat 6.0 - only two years old - the problems started when I tried the install with a VGA monochrome monitor. The unselected options were the same color as the background. I thought the strength of Linux was frugality with old hardware and a good CLI? I won't get into the other problems, but you can imagine with an x.0 release. To be able to get the foot in the door, it should at least install easily on whatever piece of dogshit machine you throw it at. There are distros which run on a 386SX with 2 megs of RAM ( Let's see that as the baseline to get a running kernel.
        • In Red Hat 7.1 - not that old - there's no support for my mouse's scroll wheel by default. I don't care the reason, scroll wheel mice have been popular since 1998. Four years is a lifetime in Internet time, even with a recession. Sure, scroll wheels are a Windows invention, but they're just about the only good idea to come out of Redmond, and to paraphrase Steve Earle, "Go on, take the idea and run". Microsoft owes a debt to everyone else in the computer field; we should adopt their few real innovations posthaste.
        • Xine is arguably the best multimedia player for *nix, but it doesn't have a repeat button, from what I can tell. I want an endless repeat just like Windows Media Player. Why? Who cares. I am the end user, and that's what the end user wants. If Media Player has it, it can't be that weird. At least create a list of all the features Windows programs have and strive to meet them. The most important additional feature, at this point, is running on a resilient operating system. Yes, it's nice that there are effectively billions of dollars of software development provided to me free of charge by volunteer efforts, but if all it has is compatibility with a stable operating system, it's not very useful. At this point, equivalent features are mere credibility.
        • Speaking of mere credibility... The (apparently but who knows anymore) predominant mail client, kmail, for the (apparently but who knows anymore) predominant GUI, KDE, doesn't include a spell checker like Outlook or Eudora (which I'm currently running under Wine) which underlines mistyped/misspelled words. I don't care about the technical reasons why it has not been implemented, or why kmail's spell checker sucks as much as it does. I have to manually invoke it like I did with DaVinci's spell checker back on a corporate LAN in 1996, and even then it doesn't have a decent vocabulary. WTF? (Why is "kmail" not equal to "kmail's"? I hate to think that my dictionary has to be so wasteful as to include a possessive and probably also a plural version of *every* noun! We'll not even get into why my e-mail client doesn't appear to even know its own name and flags it as an error, that's another story entirely; I know the answer but, like a point-and-drool end user, *simply don't care* to hear the excuse.)
        • KDE or Gnome? Fine, they're really only libraries and can coexist, but the division is counterintuitive, confusing, not relevant and off-putting to new users. For the most part, the differences between distros are the same. Sure, that's part of the strength, but it's also part of the weakness. Bicker privately. The user experience should be transparent to the squabbles. I'm sure someone at Microsoft says "Going gold, let's get it out the door", while someone else says "hold on, let's fix the bugs". KDE/Gnome holy wars should be as invisible to end users as Bill's DoublePlusGood Quality Control Department.
        • XMMS: kmail gives me the "You've Got New Mail" beep, and XMMS crashes. "Audio device is in use." For Christ's sake, I've installed it according to the docs and managed to keep my attention-deficit-disorder-inflicted brain idling for 15 minutes while it compiled; is this 2002 or 1991 all over again? (Hey, those years were both palindromes!)
        • Buggy boxed distros. At this point, the only real strength of Linux is stability. Security is a product of stability; if a program is stable, I feel somewhat more confident in assuming there are less/no buffer overflows waiting to be discovered and used. So why are distros turning to The Redmond Way and undermining the only 100% foolproof advantage Linux has in a world of 15 Klez booby-traps waiting nightly in your mailbox? Why do we have new x.0 distros of *anything* leaving the CD-ROM press with more root holes than IIS? I'll tolerate a few, but do we really need BIND running by default when Handsome Hubby The Bored Accountant picks up a box of $LAST_WEEK'S_VERSION of $WHATEVER Linux in the cashier display for $5.99 at $ELECTRONICS_RETAIL_CHAIN?
        • Mind-numbing slowness.... like, oh my God, how long will it take for KDE's file browser to show me the list of the 2,765 MP3s in my directory? As allegedly fat and slow as Windows 2000 is, it installs off only *one* pirated CD (not *three*, like most distros), and Explorer manages to pop up my MP3 collection a hell of a lot faster than when I boot in Linux. Note also that I didn't have the opportunity to compile Windows for this particular machine, yet I did for KDE. Why, despite KDE's advantage of optimization, is Windows Exploiter still faster? Everything stopped for three weeks when I opened the directory which contained my pr0n collection.
        • An application crashes. Nothing responds to mouseclicks. I've waited a few seconds and need to get back to work. My alternatives appear to be CTRL-ALT-BKSP (the "Three Fingered Salute", Finnish Edition (sorry, Linus)) or, from the other machine that I don't have as the typical home user, "telnet $HOST / $USERNAME / $PASSWORD / top / k -9 $PID_OF_APPARENTLY_CRASHED_PROGRAM". That's unacceptable. I want a window to pop up and say, "Hey, dunno what the heck happened here, but this program ain't responding to system messages no more. Wanna kill it? (Y/N)".
        • Some *nix users. Most will give you the shirt off your back to help you out and I appreciate those, but there's a distressing and non-trivial number who will mock nonconformity within an Anime/Star Trek environment. It's hard to imagine pure computer geeks being as cliquish and superficial as 14-year-old girls in a schoolyard, yet I know when I copy this to a comment form in Slashdot, I'll be modded down. It'd be much worse if I were trying to get my first Linux install running on Mom and Dad's computer and was being made fun of for asking if Linux will run on Dad's Pentium III-450.
        • Speaking of Mom and Dad's computer, we need advocacy and an installed user base of kids who can't necessarily afford their own machines. We need installation to be foolproof, as risk-free as possible, and easy to ensure a future userbase who will go to college, get jobs, and be in purchasing positions. We need a *great* initial user experience. We need focus groups going to senior citizens homes and getting feedback. But, as a starting point, we need the damned installers to check the hard disk for free space in a Windows partition, offer to automatically and safely resize it, and then install a (working/effective/safe) dual-boot system in such a fashion that any AOL-using blue-haired grandmother who drives to church every Sunday in her 1974 Oldsmobile Delta 88 and can't figure out why MediaPlay doesn't sell 8-Tracks anymore, can figure out the Window/Linux startup choice. That should be an absolute priority so that trying out Linux - on all major distos, whether contemplated and downloaded or an impulse "hey, what's this Linux thing in the news?" buy at Wal*Mart - involves as little risk to an end user as possible. "If there is any hope, it lies with the proles." - Winston Smith, 1984.

        However, "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty." - Edward R. Murrow.

        Despite all these frustrations with Linux, I can't condone your actions. We're 99.98% to the finish line, and the threat of losing is too great. If the Internet is Microsoft's, we're all locked in to one supplier, one philosophy, one vision. One *architecture*. We're too vulnerable, anyone and everyone.

        The next Klez, Code Red, or licensing agreement, 5 months or 5 years from now, could shut the Internet down.

    • Re:Denial? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#3858319)
      While you may impressed, I certainly am not. Witness the smug "Some of his points are wrong" comment while providing *ZERO* counterpoints.
    • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @03:05PM (#3859038) Homepage
      While it is true that Linux has a number of niggling problems, Windows does as well. It seems that ultimately the reason he moved to XP was because of two things:

      1) frustration with graphics in general (both performance and fonts)

      2) frustration with hardware support

      As far as #1 goes, I'll back him on that one. Fonts have continued to be an amazing pain to deal with. Both MacOS and Windows have systems that make managing fonts trivial. I susppose the source of the complication is that X provides multiple ways to provide fonts which complicates any unified easy means to add fonts.

      As for performance of graphics, I find that the performance of Linux is on par with windows. And though admittedly I'm a power user, I find it rather handy every so often to be able to run remote applications so easily (thank heaven for SSH).

      Now as for point #2, though his point is true, this should not be attributed to any inherent limitations in Linux itself. The problem is simply a matter of market share. Why support the few percentage points of the market who use Linux when you can just support Windows and cover 90+% of your users.

      Personally I find that for 95% of what I do, Linux is as good if not better than Windows for doing it. Evolution is an excellent mail program, both mozilla and konqueror are great browsers. With crossover I'm now able to view a lot more of what's on the Internet. Honestly the only long running grip I have that hasn't been adequately addressed is the font problem.

      If you've got problems with hardware support, just make sure to research your purchases before hand to suit your needs. I've only had problems when trying to install on very new hardware that wasn't built with running linux in mind.

      • by RebornData ( 25811 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @03:46PM (#3859308)
        Much is made of the fact that X is fundamentally remotable. However, WinXP editions other than "Home" support running remote GUI applications using terminal services technology. The machine is still fundamentally single user (you either "take over" the main console session or that session is suspended for the duration of the remote session), but I've found for home use it gets the job done nicely.

        I used this capability routinely while traveling on business, proxying the terminal services session over SSH running on my OpenBSD gateway. It actually performed usably when dialed up to an ISP from a hotel room halfway across the country. And by usable, I don't mean "it could be used if you're a masochist". I mean, I used it to send / receive home e-mail and do Quicken regularly. Although X has it's strengths, working well over high-lag, low-bandwidth connections is not one of them.
      • 1) frustration with graphics in general (both performance and fonts)

        I run X11 on NVidia, ATI, 3Dfx, and some handhelds. It is stable like a rock, small, lightning fast, and it doesn't crash, either itself or Linux.

        KDE, Mozilla, and Gnome can be slow, and some misbehaved applications that don't use mouse grabs properly can make X11 appear to "crash" (it's really working fine, you just need to kill the application--happens under OSX and Windows as well).

        Those are not X11's problems, they are problems with the toolkits that those systems use. Switching to a frame-buffer based system is not going to fix those problems with the applications.

      • the only long running grip I have that hasn't been adequately addressed is the font problem

        As well as the font problem, the other long running gripe (also mentioned in the story) is the installer. YaST/RPM/tar.gz/make -- why are their so many different complex methods to perform what should be a simple job that Joe User can perform with a few clicks. Linux Distro's **REALLY** need to get together and create an installer that is easy to use and reliable. (Windows Installer for Linux?)

        The desktop environment should have less junk and clutter, with a nice simple clean and efficient interface. KDE is awful IMHO and full of unwanted crapplets, Gnome is slightly better, but there still isn't a single window manager that stands out as being classed as user friendly. Again, quality not quantity.

        Linux is my first choice for a server OS, but it will never be my primary desktop OS until the mess that is a Linux desktop becomes an efficient working environment.

        To summarise, I think Linux requires "Quality, not Quantity"
  • the other direction? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dirvish ( 574948 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:47PM (#3858210) Homepage Journal
    If this guy switched from Linux to Windows XP what hope is there for me switching from XP to Red Hat like I have been trying to do? So far I have had problems with getting sound and printing to work on Linux and I havent' even tried to get my scanner or CDRW drive to work. The Linux communities' intentions are certainly in the right place but why does *nix have to be such a pain in the ass for workstation use.
    • why does *nix have to be such a pain in the ass for workstation use
      It doesn't.
      • MacOSX vs Unix (Score:4, Insightful)

        by maeglin ( 23145 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:42PM (#3858826)
        It doesn't.

        It really depends on what you want to do with it. The people from the fink [] people have done an excellent job of getting *nix apps working but if you think a *nix person will sit down and be instantly at home, think again.

        When I first bought my NeXTStation I thought it would be like sitting down in front of a Solaris box... boy, was I wrong... it took me a while just to get used to NeXT way of configuring stuff, THEN I had to actually make it work for me. You were supposed to use the config app to configure stuff, but it couldn't do everything so you had to drop back to text files. Some of the standard /etc text files were gone, some were still there but didn't actually do anything and some behaved normally. You didn't know which ones which without trial and error. The Unix file hierarchy was also destroyed with /Apps directories scattered about and binaries in /usr/etc (I still don't understand that). The schizophrenia has gotten better, but that was done by making OSX even less Unix like.

        If you want a usable system that works the way it's supposed to, OSX is great. It's a beautiful system, but it's not "pretty Unix", it's a Mac workstation and selling it to people as anything but isn't telling them the whole story.

      • by MicroBerto ( 91055 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:54PM (#3858943)
        ... I just can't afford the hardware. The day they find a way to release OS X for x86, I (and i would bet a large portion of the market) are there. It's just got to be so hard to support so much hardware.
        • ... I just can't afford the hardware.

          Like most other things in life, the decision is a tradeoff. Here's the thing to think about: how much is your time worth?

          I ran Linux. I like linux. I still choose Linux for my web hosting (thinking about OpenBSD, tho'). I bought a Powerbook Laptop 2 years ago, though. A few months later, I picked up a copy of the OS X public beta. Inside of a month I was sold. Even factoring the extra amount of time I sometimes had to futz to get not-quite-totally-makefile-ported software over, I spent so much less time trying to get things to go my way that there was no contest. When I want the command line and UNIX goodness, it's there. When I don't want to think about it, I don't have to. That savings was easily worth $500. Maybe more.

          As for affordability.... I'm typing this on that same Powerbook G3/333 Mhz. I had to put 384 MB RAM in the thing to keep it usable, but usable it is. You can probably find something nearly twice that Mhz for under $600.

          Worth it to me.

      • by jimfrost ( 58153 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @04:27PM (#3859664) Homepage
        It doesn't.

        Sigh. Unfortunately, the guy's right. Not only that, but it's been true since around 1995. I'll get to MacOS X eventually, but some background and explanation is necessary.

        NT3.5 was better as a desktop system than any UNIX variant I've used before or since (and I've used darn near everything you ever heard of, and probably a lot that you haven't). It was reasonably stable, reasonably fast, and run a boatload of software you couldn't get for UNIX no matter how much you wanted to spend.

        Back in 1995 I was asked to write an article for SunExpert describing this new NT thing to their audience. I had been working with NT for about a year at that point, and was really liking what I'd seen. As a desktop system it was vastly more usable than any workstation system available at the time ... not as fast as some, but superb for the price point and again with a vast software library to choose from. I said so, and said that they were going to see a lot of them in workstation tasks, but that I didn't think it worked very well as a server.

        A few years later SunExpert changed their name to Server/Workstation Expert on account of finding out via a survey that 96% of their readership ran NT in addition to Sun systems. 96%! That's what I call market penetration. And it happened really fast, over the course of just a couple of years.

        I gave up running UNIX on my desktop in 1995, pretty much concurrent with picking up Java. I couldn't justify the cost of a Sun workstation to run Java, and it didn't run on BSD UNIX (which was what I was running on PC hardware at the time). Linux was nowhere near production quality at the time, so it wasn't even on my radar screen. NT did the job, and if I wanted/needed UNIX it was just a telnet or X11 connection away. Meanwhile I had access to a wealth of Windows software. That's the way it remained until 1999.

        1999 was the year that Java became usable on Linux. Now, I'd been running Linux on my home server for a couple of years by then so I was pretty familiar with it, but I couldn't use it on my workstation systems because I was working with Java. Blackdown's port made Java available and I made the jump to Linux on my desktop almost immediately. Well, part of the jump anyway.

        Wordprocessing on Linux was a no-go. Not only couldn't I interoperate with MS Word very effectively, but I couldn't find a single wordprocessor that was both relatively bug-free and produced high quality output. I bought a couple of different packages (Applix, which was horrible all around, WordPerfect 7 which had great printer output but a horribly buggy UI) and tried others (StarOffice, abominably slow and had poor output quality). My publisher did a pretty good job of working with me through various file formats, although we pretty much ended up going back to RTF for most of the different wordprocessors. In the end I ended up just using emacs to produce HTML content, which everyone could read. It was a little bit of a pain, but at least it worked (and was superbly cross-platform readable :-). These days things are looking up, with AbiWord and KOffice coming along -- but both still quite buggy. Luckily StarOffice works decently, although it's still slow.

        Now, I never totally gave up my NT box. I couldn't: my finances were in Quicken, my games didn't run on Linux, instant messenger stuff didn't work on Linux, my office's scheduler software didn't work on Linux, my office's VPN didn't support Linux, etc. Still, NT became the secondary OS and I did almost everything on Linux.

        I still run Linux as my primary OS, but my newest box runs XP and I've seriously considered making that my primary computer. I don't because I'm more effective as a programmer under a UNIX system (and the cygwin tools, which made NT at least palatable, are really a distant second to native stuff) and, these days, I'm hooked on Ximian's Evolution mail reader. (Still a bit buggy but very, very nice.)

        I now give XP a lot more of my time. I still use it for Quicken. IM, at least, I can do on Linux now. But burning CDs? Nero Burning ROM is better than anything on Linux. Same goes for RealOne as both a video display tool and MP3 encoder. So far as I can tell you're SOL if you want to display Windows Media stuff on Linux, and a ton of video content is Windows Media these days. And games ... well, I can run almost everything on XP, and almost nothing on Linux. I used to have a second partition with Win98 on it for nothing more than viewing DVDs on my laptop ... a situation which has thankfully improved recently, but is still much more difficult than it should be. I can't even buy a Linux DVD player!

        There are many things I dislike about XP, not the least of which being draconian licensing agreements and software and an interface that is even more saccharine than on the old Macs and the many, many security problems. I have a hard time finding the settings I need for more complicated things. For some reason some of my folders are easily available from the desktop but totally invisible to applications (weird and frustrating). But, overall, it's been rock solid reliable and again it has a lot of software.

        Now, about the same time I got the new XP box I bought my wife a new Ti Powerbook running MacOS X. I'd been watching OSX since it looked like it had promise, and indeed it does. In fact, I liked it so much that I picked up an ibook for myself just to run it.

        For some things, MacOS X is just superb. It recognizes hardware slick as you please. It has drop-dead-simple wireless networking. Stuff like that. But what it didn't have was applications. If I wanted a decent wordprocessor for it my choice was pretty much Word, and that cost a fortune -- $350 for Word alone at the time, and almost $500 for Office. Crap, I can pretty nearly buy the PC hardware with XP and Word for that much money. That was a huge irritation. (A friend had a promo copy of Office:mac he didn't need, so he gave it to me ... otherwise I think my wife would have tossed the powerbook out the window.) I still don't have a good wordprocessor on mine, I do all my wordprocessing on Linux or Windows. I refuse to use my wife's copy illegally, and I still haven't found anything decent at a realistic price point.

        But that was only our first taste of software issues. You couldn't get an OSX version of her Palm software for months (thankfully that eventually got resolved). Running the OS9 version in the compatibility box SUCKED. We got Quicken, but its data format is irritatingly different from the Windows version; not enough to be terminal, just irritating. It has Internet Explorer, but surprisingly enough many pages coded for IE don't actually work on it. Netscape was Netscape -- for better or for worse in the superlative degree of comparison only (that's a literary allusion by which I mean it's pretty mediocre). I can't even get Mozilla to run, it just dies with no error message. Printer support is not so good; I ended up buying a postscript expansion cartridge for my printer (a LaserJet 2000N I think), and even still it has problems. There's no browser for mounting SMB shares or printers; you can do it, you just have to type in the share names exactly (and know where to do it). And e-mail software? Someone please point me at decent e-mail software that supports IMAP. My wife's using Entourage from Office, but the best I can find other than that is Eudora and it still has a horrid interface and bad IMAP support.

        But most irritating of all is that the new Mac interface sucks. I mean, they moved stuff all over the place for no apparent reason and that dock thing just drives me nuts. What's with the Explorer windows? Compared to the old Mac interface this new one is very nonintuitive, a huge step backwards. In many cases it's gratuitiously different! Grr. They can't possibly believe that this is an improvement over OS9. Applications go into the spinning ball cursor mode and stay there for long periods of time. The network upgrade process took 28 hours to complete the first time: it kept losing the connection after several hours, requiring a full restart (even though many of the packages had already fully downloaded). The irritations stack up.

        My wife has been unable to find replacements for a variety of things she used on Windows. So far she's just dealing with that, but she doesn't like it. On the other hand her Mac has rarely crashed, while her Win98 box required me to reinstall the OS every few months (the original impetus for switching to a Mac). In the sense that I've had to do almost no administration work on her Mac the conversion was a complete success, but our marriage was on rocky ground for a few months while we got her going.

        OSX is improving with every new upgrade, and software availability is improving too. But, frankly speaking, I have more software on Linux and that's a pale shadow of what I have on Windows. OSX has a long way to go before I'll call it the best UNIX around. Its got the best administration UIs of any UNIX I've ever seen, and the second best desktop (I still prefer NextStep to OSX), but it needs applications BAD -- both commercial applications and in-the-box applications.

        Interestingly enough, I'm still diametrically opposed to running XP on the server. It's not so much the stability anymore, or the performance, as the cost ... it has exploded in the last couple of years (coincidentally (or not) as the last of their commercial competition died out). I just can't afford it. On top of that I'm scared to death to put a Windows box on the net; it seems to be security-hole-of-the-week. Heck, Windows security holes were responsible for my cable company shutting off HTTP ports for all their customers last year. Yuck!

        Take this for what it's worth: One more opinion in the mix. But man, XP really is a better desktop system than Linux for the vast majority of users, even if we completely ignore hardware compatibility issues. The applications software alone makes the difference.

        • A few comments on some of your OS X difficulties. Some are pretty easy to get around (others are problems that drive me batty).

          For some things, MacOS X is just superb. It recognizes hardware slick as you please. It has drop-dead-simple wireless networking. Stuff like that. But what it didn't have was applications. If I wanted a decent wordprocessor for it my choice was pretty much Word, and that cost a fortune --

          AppleWorks 6. $80 will buy you a word-processing-spreadsheet-database-drawing-paint ing-and-more
          package that's well worth using. I've been using it since version 3 (when it was Claris Works). 6.2.4 boasts complete Word/Excel compatibility, which should take care of interop complaints (though when I can get away with it, I send people my "how to send RTFs" document).

          I also have Office 98, which runs under Classic. Works fine, and I like using Excel especially.

          You couldn't get an OSX version of her Palm software for months (thankfully that eventually got resolved).

          In general, I agree the first year has seemed a little rocky in terms of software support. I think if I hadn't been focused on web development I probably would have noticed more. I'm still waiting for my favorite music apps to come out OS X native (SuperCollider and Digital Performer and Pro Tools). I think we're past the worst for everyday use, though.

          And e-mail software? Someone please point me at decent e-mail software that supports IMAP. My wife's using Entourage from Office, but the best I can find other than that is Eudora and it still has a horrid interface and bad IMAP support.

          On this one, either you got turned off by the beta or you've just been a bit lazy since then. The Mac OS X default mail client ( does IMAP and does it very well. It's been one of the best parts of my OS X experience.

          It has Internet Explorer, but surprisingly enough many pages coded for IE don't actually work on it. Netscape was Netscape -- for better or for worse in the superlative degree of comparison only (that's a literary allusion by which I mean it's pretty mediocre). I can't even get Mozilla to run

          Browsers: Avoid Mozilla... look for Chimera, which is Gecko stuck in a cocoa framework. I'm posting from this. It's a bit unpolished but fast. iCab is great. OmniWeb was... acceptable... with better CSS it might have won me over.

          Printer support is not so good; I ended up buying a postscript expansion cartridge for my printer (a LaserJet 2000N I think)

          What I'm finding is that printer support gets better as a) newer printers come out and b) newer releases come out. Both my Epson and HP were originally unsupported. Now they're fine.

          There's no browser for mounting SMB shares or printers; you can do it, you just have to type in the share names exactly (and know where to do it).


          But most irritating of all is that the new Mac interface sucks . I mean, they moved stuff all over the place for no apparent reason and that dock thing just drives me nuts. What's with the Explorer windows? Compared to the old Mac interface this new one is very nonintuitive, a huge step backwards. In many cases it's gratuitiously different!

          I agree they must have been smoking crack. At the very least, it would be great to choose whether you want a "browser" or windows for each folder. The gratuitous differences, however, really aren't that much of a pain compared to the Linux distros. So it's a step backward for the Mac, a step forward for Unix. I can understand the annoyance for some, but mostly, I'm OK.

          They can't possibly believe that this is an improvement over OS9. Applications go into the spinning ball cursor mode and stay there for long periods of time.

          This is probably my biggest pet peeve. Sometimes I can't even get a terminal window to respond and kill things in this mode. There's some bugs to be fixed for certain.

          The network upgrade process took 28 hours to complete the first time: it kept losing the connection after several hours, requiring a full restart (even though many of the packages had already fully downloaded).

          And this is absolutely moronic on Apple's part. Why can't Software Update tell how much of a package it has downloaded already?. Stupidity.

          Still, I love using OS X from day to day. Unix goodness when I want it. Pretty widgets when I don't. Ah.

        • by sheldon ( 2322 )
          I don't because I'm more effective as a programmer under a UNIX system (and the cygwin tools, which made NT at least palatable, are really a distant second to native stuff)

          Out of curiousity, have you looked into MKS Toolkit or the UWin tools?


          I long ago abandoned Unix, and now find myself more productive using the built in Windows tools, especially the scripting languages. But we've brought in MKS tools for certain situations and they work pretty well and are native.

          The MKS tools I think are also included with Microsoft's Services for Unix, along with some other utilities like NFS software, etc.

          As far as a Unix like environment, I've found UWin to be much better solution than cygwin. I've never been impressed with the cygwin tools and cringe whenever I hear them mentioned.
    • by lunenburg ( 37393 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:53PM (#3858268) Homepage
      I would imagine in a lot of cases, especially for peripherals like scanners or printers, Windows users get drivers provided for free by the manufacturers, along with support in case something breaks, whereas a sizeable portion of Linux drivers are reverse-engineered with no help from the people who make the hardware (especially if the hardware folks want to keep their "proprietary" information locked up). A lot of times, the Open Source driver developers just have to make do with what they can get, and the functionality of the drivers suffer.

      I've got a UMAX scanner that won't work under Linux because UMAX refuses to release either a driver or the specs. Printers are a hit-or-miss proposition for the same reason. However, I haven't had any problems with IDE CDRW drives or sound cards in a long time.

      If you want to run Linux on the desktop, like I've been doing for about 4 years now, you just have to accept the fact that most hardware vendors are, at best, noncomittal about Linux support, and at worst downright hostile to it. So you really need to take more time planning for supported hardware, rather than expecting anything you can get off the shelves at Best Buy to work.
    • Another direction (Score:4, Informative)

      by nullard ( 541520 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:56PM (#3858303) Journal
      I've used two mature UNIX desktops. One is Solaris (on Sparc). It works well and is useable if you don't mind the occaisional x11 hicoughs. Then there is Mac OS X. It is a real UNIX. It is much more stable, powerful, and easy to use than any version of Windows. Many of the problems people experience with x86 Linux and Windows are attributable to the poorly designed design x86 platform. It's understandably hard to write an OS for an amorphous platform like x86.

      In any case, if you want UNIX on your desktop, your best bet by far is to get a Mac [].
    • by billnapier ( 33763 ) <napier AT pobox DOT com> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:59PM (#3858330) Homepage
      From the fortune file:
      Unix is very user friendly, it's just picky about who its friends are.
    • by dinotrac ( 18304 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:05PM (#3858407) Journal
      I have felt your pain and understand how confusing and frustrating that switch can be, depending on the hardware that you need to support. I've also found it ironic that printing is so difficult under Linux, but a Windows user can just take it for granted.

      Don't know about your sound problems, but will make my standard printing suggestion, in the absence of real knowledge about your problems:

      CUPS + gimp-print (which has actually evolved into an all-around printing support package for a goodly number of printers).

      CUPS replaces the standard Unix-style print spooling-management. As a Red Hat user, you probably are using GNOME. I don't know how well GNOME+CUPS interoperate, but I suspect they do just fine. Using CUPS with KDE makes printing very Windows-like, complete with a print dialog that allows you to set any of your printing options on a per-job basis.

      gimp-print is available at
      Fair warning: requires compilation. Not difficult, but read the directions carefully and march steadily forward.

  • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:47PM (#3858212) Homepage Journal

    I had to laugh at this...

    Stupid users don't doggedly stick at something for three and a half years, trying distribution after distribution in the hope of finding the holy grail of Linux desktops.

    Hmmmm.... I don't know about that...

  • by daeley ( 126313 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:47PM (#3858214) Homepage
    Tell your friend that if you want to switch, you're supposed to go here: []

    not here: []

    Friends don't let friends use XP.
    • Re:No no no no no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tshak ( 173364 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:20PM (#3858574) Homepage
      Sure, I'll just go out and buy a copy of OS X for $100+ and install it on my current machine.

      MAC's are cool, but so is x86 hardware. It's not as simple of a choice.
      • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @07:45PM (#3861115) Homepage Journal
        I'm reminded of the words of Abe Simpson: "I used to be with it, but they changed what 'it' is. Now what I'm with, isn't 'it' anymore, and what's 'it', seems weird and scary to me."
        MAC's are cool, but so is x86 hardware.

        x86 hardware is cool?! Cheap. Ubiquitous. Brutal and Medieval. Hot as an oven with an overclocked Athlon microcontroller in Hell's at 3:00 PM on a sunny August afternoon and sixty miles from the nearest beer cooler. Less hip than your parents telling your girlfriend about your potty training. But cool?! x86 hardware is cool?!??? x86 hardware is about as cool as training wheels on your Edsel, as Pat Boone blairs out of the speakers, with a Latter Day Saints bumpersticker.

        If you think x86 hardware is cool, your brain is infected. Have you been watching "Dude, you're getting a Dell" commercials?

  • by tshak ( 173364 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:47PM (#3858215) Homepage
    I'm a bit surprised he didn't go to Win2K. WinXP has some cool features, but unless the latest service pack really changed things, it feels very unpolished (read: Rushed to compete with OS X).
    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:12PM (#3858487)
      I'm a bit surprised he didn't go to Win2K.

      I'm not. His last MS OS was Win95. And according to his Linux experience, he seemed to want to go out and get the latest and greatest OS. So when he went to purchase a new MS OS, which one do you think appealed to him? Why, XP of course. If you go to microsoft's website, they have a comparison between XP and Win98 and between XP and Win95, to show you how advanced XP is over their "old" OS offerings. No mention of XP vs Win2k.

    • WinXP has some cool features, but unless the latest service pack really changed things, it feels very unpolished

      Agreed. My old box was a Win2K machine, which worked fine for everything I needed to do. Last week I had the dubious honour of setting up a new WinXP box. While there are certainly things to like about XP (it's almost worth it just to lock the toolbars so you can't accidentally drag them around), I have seen plenty of irritating niggles.

      • The user interface has changed all over the place for no good reason. I'm an experienced Windows user, but couldn't find several options I used to have without a long time searching.
      • The new user interface isn't universal; with WinXP themes on, even major MS apps such as Visual Studio appear in a bizarre hybrid of new-style bright UI widgets and Win2K-style 3D effects. The combination is nasty.
      • Cleartype is overrated. I was looking forward to it, but the standard anti-aliasing actually looks much better on the 19" Trinitron box I've got.
      • It's not stable; even very popular virus scanning software on my box crashes out routinely.
      • It's dog slow on my 2.2GHz P4. Win2K on the 1.4GHz P4 next to me is faster. Please don't tell me it's just the UI widgets, because we already thought of that. :-)

      I have other reservations as well, but the poor UI work and lack of performance/stability are enough to rule it out as an advance over 2K as far as I'm concerned, before you even get into the whole IE/Media Player/DRM/M$ 0wnz U thing.

      I'm about to get a new top-of-the-range box, and I'm looking seriously at what type of system and what OS I install. Right about now, the options under consideration are Win2K, Linux and MacOS X. After my experiences at work, WinXP isn't a contender.

  • Why Not Mac / OSX? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by idonotexist ( 450877 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:48PM (#3858222)
    This user's wish:
    I wanted something simple. I was getting tired of the 'stable' Debian release being so out of date, and the 'unstable' distribution being so... well... unstable. I got tired of having to recompile my kernel every time I got new hardware. I got tired of using command line to talk to my PC. It was time for a change.

    I wouldn't be surprised if this guy, again, becomes frustrated with his OS because it sounds like he is looking for something that just works, is refined, and has new technology (wanted to use latest unstable Deb, didn't he?). Well, Win XP scores maybe 1/3 of that criteria. However, a Mac seems to fulfill 3/3 IMO. Sounds like a Mac / OSX user.
    • by blakestah ( 91866 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#3858317) Homepage
      That is exactly where I kinda thought he was making it all up. I actually use Debian unstable at work, and upgrade regularly.

      Yes, there have been about 2-3 hiccups per year, but it is really nothing that someone who can set up RedHat, Mandrake, Debian, and SuSE cannot handle pretty easily. The truth is that Debian unstable is still more stable than most other distros.

      I also agree about Mac OS X. I would definitely check it out before going Microsoft. It can run Microsoft Office, and it has an X server (Darwin), and it makes multimedia trivial (especially, for me, simple home digital movies).
  • by geophile ( 16995 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:51PM (#3858253) Homepage
    KDE is beautiful. Browsers look horrible until you install xfstt and decent fonts (any distributions do this out of the box?). StarOffice and OpenOffice are decent enough. But those applications look absolutely horrible because of the fonts, and I haven't figured out how to get either to use TT fonts, even after setting up xfstt.

    Imagine a marketroid given a linux box with email, a browser, and OpenOffice. He's going to absolutely hate it because of the fonts. I am a hard-core techie and I have a hard time looking at OpenOffice. But give the marketroid the same box with great-looking fonts and his tolerance for linux will go way up.

    Fix the @#$%ing fonts!

    • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:59PM (#3858329)
      apt-get install msttcorefonts :)

      They're something Microsoft got right, and you're free to use them, even on linux! I haven't looked at an ugly bitmapped font in over two years.
    • by gid ( 5195 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:00PM (#3858342) Homepage
      Under debian you can "apt-get install msttcorefonts" and have nice microsoft fonts that they provide, including arial, ahhh arial... Under other dists, you probably have to manually find them and install them the trutype way.

      It is a royal pain in the ass to install a ttf under linux, it's not just copy it to the directory, you have to do all other retarded things, add it to config files, etc. Maybe that's because I don't have xfstt installed, and rely on X11's built in ttf support.

      If you use the debian mozilla, it gives you the option to turn on antialiasing on install of mozilla... ahhhh much better, it's not too overdone, thank goodness...

      • It is a royal pain in the ass to install a ttf under linux, it's not just copy it to the directory, you have to do all other retarded things, add it to config files, etc. Maybe that's because I don't have xfstt installed, and rely on X11's built in ttf support.

        Recent KDEs have a font installer in the control center, where you can add fonts easily and it will generate a good .XftConfig (or system one, as root) file for you as well.
    • KDE and TrueType (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joeflies ( 529536 )
      Yes, fonts can be quite frustrating, but kfontinst (which is now in KDE 3) makes it much easier. It's in Control Panel->System->Font Installer

      btw - I am a marketroid with a linux box, using Kmail, Konq and Open Office :>)
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @03:53PM (#3859394)

      ...The serious people typeset using (La)TeX anyway. :-)

  • by chicagothad ( 227885 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:52PM (#3858255)
    kNIGits says: "Mr Joe Average is someone who wants to install their OS, boot it up, and it works. He wants to be able to upgrade his PC , and have the hardware work in a few short minutes. He wants to read email, browse the web, talk to his mates online, and play some games."

    How is this different than a business user or someone who works in desktop support (aside from the games part)? It isn't. Until this scenario can be neatly met by Linux, it will forever be a server OS.

    If anyone out there is support an installation of over 1000 linux desktops I would like to know their experiences.
    • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:22PM (#3858591)

      > kNIGits says: "Mr Joe Average is someone who wants to install their OS, boot it up, and it works. He wants to be able to upgrade his PC , and have the hardware work in a few short minutes.

      Mr. Joe Average doesn't install his OS, nor does he upgrade his hardware, unless you count plugging in a peripheral as an "upgrade".

      > If anyone out there is support an installation of over 1000 linux desktops I would like to know their experiences.

      I recently had a very interesting conversation with the person responsible for maintaining around 3000 systems, mostly Linux.

      She hates Linux - for the same reason that she hates Windows, Intel, and AMD. She hates commodity stuff because it's always changing. Order a dozen computers and install them; order a dozen more a month later, and they're completely different. Different hardware, different software. So over a few years of stepwise upgrades/replacements in your large farm of servers/desktops, you end up with a mix of small numbers of many variants.

      From the maintenance POV, the best experience comes from buying commodity hardware/software combos from Sun or the like, where you can get more of the same when you need to order some more.

      But who wants the five year old state of the art on their desktop? There seems to be a direct trade-off between providing the best user experience and providing the best maintainer experience, at least when you're talking about large numbers of boxes.

      • Re: commodity PCs (Score:4, Interesting)

        by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:57PM (#3858975) Journal
        Bleah.... after close to 10 years of doing PC support, consulting, and technician work - I'm convinced that there's really no "better way" of dealing with the new hardware purchases.

        If you constantly chase down compatibility (EG. Our new systems must be able to boot using the same Norton Ghost drive image we built for the last ones!), you cheat yourself out of better deals for the money spent. Manufacturers don't just change around system specs because they enjoy frustrating the consumer. They do it because they can add new functionality, better performance, or simply because old components they used are no longer in production.

        On the other hand, if you don't insist on "nearly identical" hardware - your productivity suffers as your techs have to learn to deal with all those different configurations.

        So in effect, it's pretty much a wash. You either save $'s by always getting the best value for the money in new hardware and lose some of the savings in added support costs, or you blow it up front paying premium prices for outdated but compatible hardware, and make your support jobs less taxing.

        Given those considerations - I'd typically opt for getting whatever hardware is latest and greatest for the money. Modern OS's generally behave pretty well on modern hardware, and by buying large number of systems at a time (instead of 10 here, and 5 or 10 there a month or two later), you minimize the headaches of multiple system types scattered all over....
  • Best Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:52PM (#3858260) Homepage Journal
    The greatest point he makes is that, although there are plenty of gurus willing to help newbies with simple questions, there are even more elitests that will either flame your question or give you a "RTFM!"

    I say, if you are friendly and willing to help newbies, answer their questions. If you want to flame, or send a RTFM, stay silent. If they don't get an answer, they'll eventually look their, anyway.

    Elitests are the biggest weakness of Linux.
    • Re:Best Point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Phexro ( 9814 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:15PM (#3858524)
      I can understand the sentiment, but...

      I used to spend quite a bit of time in various Linux IRC channels, and when someone had a question, I would answer it. But it gets pretty irritating just sticking their question into google and spitting the answer back out. After a while, I would say 'search google'. Some people went into a frenzy, claiming they did search google, and it didn't have anything - blatant lies, since their answer was invariably within the results on the first page when I searched - and generally getting pissy at me for not spweing out whatever knowledge they requested.

      Those people do far more to harm the newbie Linux community than anyone else, since they waste the time of people who could be helping with genuine problems instead of 'how do i install nvidia drivers?' or 'how do i set up ppp?', as well as driving people away from helping newbies. I simply won't help anyone I don't know personally any more, since once you answer one question, people expect you to hold their hand all the way through whatever it is they are trying to do. It ends up frustrating me, as well as them.

      Maybe it's just me though, I never did like tech support.
      • Linux bugs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cpeterso ( 19082 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @05:18PM (#3860098) Homepage
        Most Linux newbies have the SAME questions time again and time again. How do I configure X? How do I use non-ugly X fonts? How do I configure PPP? How do I install these new drivers? Instead of documenting these procedures in the numerious "Linux HOWTOs", these problems should be fixed in SOFTWARE. Anytime someone needs to download a HOWTO doc that describes some obscure incantation of commands and settings, I consider that a BUG in Linux.
    • Re:Best Point (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eyez ( 119632 )
      The greatest point he makes is that, although there are plenty of gurus willing to help newbies with simple questions, there are even more elitests that will either flame your question or give you a "RTFM!"

      Actually, when I read this part, I was disgusted- He acts like there's something horribly wrong with actually reading the documentation.. As the documentation [] manager for the Fluxbox [] window manager, I can definitely tell you that It's frustrating as hell when someone hops on IRC and asks a question that's answered three times in the documentation, one of which is one of the first three questions in the FAQ, none of which the person in question has bothered to try reading, although the documentation and the faq are pointed to in the irc channel's topic.

      What newbies don't realize is that the reason people say RTFM is that The Fucking Manual exists for the sole purpose of being Read. It's there TO HELP YOU. It's NOT there so people can shrug you off; It's there so that you can get a good, solid answer to your question rather than a question another user half-remembers and may even be wrong, but they still answer because they're trying to help. RTFM doesn't mean "Go away, I don't want to answer your question, loser.", it means "There's documentation out there that can answer the question better than I can.".. People put a lot of time into making good, helpful documentation (I know this first-hand), for the benefit of other people, and when those people completely bypass that, it's frustrating.

      But maybe I just don't understand it... When I was learning linux 5 or so years ago, I didn't hop on irc channels to ask when I got stuck.. I taught myself most of it with man and apropos, falling back to other forms of documentation. I installed every package my distribution offered so it would all be there when I ran apropos. I also bought a few books.

      But nonetheless, nothing will make the people who write the documentation more frustrated with what they do than people ignoring it, or getting upset when they're told the answer is in the FAQ and has an entire page devoted to it. There's a lot of great documentation out there, And the reason it's great is because people put hard work into it so that others can read it.

  • by hubie ( 108345 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:54PM (#3858272)
    One point the person in the article seems to miss is that he clearly was into chasing the latest distributions whenever they came out, as he seemed to have jumped up the Mandrake/Redhat/Debian releases when they came out, and he even seemed to run the unstable releases too. In the Windows world you don't get to do this much at all (except for installing the security fixes and extra clipart upgrades). It sounds like that a good deal of his problems would go away if he stayed with a distribution when it stopped giving him problems just like if he sticks to WinXP for the next few years.
  • Why I use Linux (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BlueFall ( 141123 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:54PM (#3858280)
    I use Linux (and various kinds of Unix) for the interface. I detest the mouse. Clicking all over the place is much too slow for my tastes. Clicking alternated with typing is even worse.

    Tab completion is one of my favorite interface inventions ever.

    Just my opinion.
    • Re:Why I use Linux (Score:3, Informative)

      by palme999 ( 82528 )
      Tab completion is one of my favorite interface inventions ever.

      Agreed. But you can have this in windows too. A simple registry change will enable this functionality on win2k for example by changing the following:

      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Command Processor/CompletionCharacter

      Set this to 9 and you'll be be command completion heaven.
  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) <jhummel@joh[ ] ['nhu' in gap]> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#3858316) Homepage
    You know, I had the same problems with Linux on the desktop - I like it as a server, but many desktop pieces are just a pain in the ass to do. (Change screen resolutions, get some games running, etc).

    I went to OS X because I wanted the power of Unix - but I didn't want the hassle - I wanted to be able to enter rm por[TAB] and ln -s and all the stuff I'm used to - but if I want to pop in Warcraft III, I want it to run, not try and figure out why Mesa3D isn't configured right for my video card.

    But that's me. Like I said, I still like Linux on the server side, but it just drove me crazy on the desktop.
  • EH (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sehryan ( 412731 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:58PM (#3858322)
    Some of his points aren't wrong, they are just different from yours.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @01:59PM (#3858323) Homepage
    It looks like the big problems are fonts and X-Windows. I'm surprised that Red Hat hasn't gone through everything and fixed the font situation. That's just grunt work; there's no problem doing it. (Are there any other major commercial Linux companies left?)

    X-Windows is an idea that sucked over a decade ago, and it hasn't improved much since. The whole concept, dumb graphics terminals tied to application servers, is obsolete. The problem is that it's marginally good enough that it hasn't been replaced on Linux by a better windowing architecture. More than anything else, X is the boat-anchor of Linux.

    • I'm surprised that Red Hat hasn't gone through everything and fixed the font situation.

      Have you seen the new RedHat Beta (supposedly for 8.0)? Since RedHat uses GNOME and GTK for everything, and since they're using gtk2, everything is anti-aliased with really nice TT fonts. Even the GDM greeter. I think they're going to get it right in the next release. :-)
    • by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:56PM (#3858964) Homepage Journal
      Until I have another way to do this from home, I can't agree:
      • ssh -XfC -c blowfish mozilla
      The ability to run a fairly responsive browser on my home desktop with access to the internal network without having to have everyone and his brother in on the setup of some overblown VPN solution is not something I can live without.
  • But we want to! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hansendc ( 95162 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:00PM (#3858333) Homepage
    One of the overriding things that I hear over and over when people compare Linux to Windows is how they don't want to mess with the configuration, the want it to just work.

    Linux is an OS for those who want to mess with their computers. It is for those of use who desire the largest amount of control possible and pull our hair out every time they click Start->Settings->Control Panel->Something Simple.

    I want to have to recompile my kernel because I like knowing exactly what I'm getting. It isn't enough to just tolerate Linux's differences, you should embrace them! If you don't, Linux probably isn't the OS for you.

  • by Helmholtz Coil ( 581131 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:04PM (#3858387) Journal

    Interesting timing for this story. My GF is just this week moving in, and while she waits for her computer to arrive she's been using my FreeBSD machine. I automated just 'bout everything for her and just two seconds ago phoned to see how she's doing.

    Story thus far...she's perfectly happy with the *nix machine and Opera, even in comparison to the handholding she's accustomed to as a WinAOL user. She was perfectly capable of checking her email in Opera, checking the news, etc. This is someone who doesn't come from a technical background, isn't accustomed to tinkering to get things to work, just a Regular User that just needed a little guidance to get her started.

    Moral of the story is: don't give up the good fight. For every person that gets frustrated by *nix, there's another convert in the making in the wings we can reach out to.
  • by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:04PM (#3858393) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing wrong with this combo, and it gives you the best of both worlds.

    Personally, I've never liked any of the X-based desktops. I've always used the command line exclusively with Linux and Unix. The flexibility of the command line with standard Unix stuff like bash, less, sed, awk and perl is something I don't ever see Windows catching up to. I've never seen a scripting language more adept than Perl, a web server more capable than Apache, or a scheduler that makes more sense than cron. Servers are where Linux and Unix make sense.

    Conversely on my desktop, when I want to use a graphical IDE to debug programs, or create graphics, or play games, nothing beats a Windows desktop for me. The clincher is that things work the same across most programs - simple things like copy and paste, or Ctrl-F to search. I'm almost always working with 10 or more programs open at once(including a couple of SSH sessions) and I need an environment that doesn't slow me down.

    In fact, I really don't know any Linux or BSD users who never rely on a good closed-source OS for at least some things. The most rabid Microsoft hater I know still keeps a Windows partition for games. Lets face it, the only people who use Linux and nothing else do it for ideological reasons. Most of us just want stuff to work right and pick the best tool for the job at hand.

    • I use Linux exclusively, but I sacrifice almost nothing in order to do so. I do have a windows partition, but it's broken and unbootable, and been that way for over a year. I originally setup that partition for a lan party, but never even used it, and before that I hadn't touched windows in over 2 years.

      I even play games, native Linux games, and using winex, no need for windows. I use winex because it's easier than rebooting all the time. I don't even bother mounting my winblows partition in Linux, nothing useful there.

      IMO, best of both worlds would be Linux and OSX desktop machines, and Linux/*BSD servers, screw windows, it's the only "modern" OS around trying to limit what the user does instead of trying to empower the user. Fuck that, computers are supposed to be general computing devices, not restrictive appliances like DVD players and VCRs.

  • OSX (Score:5, Interesting)

    by isa-kuruption ( 317695 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:05PM (#3858402) Homepage
    I went through the Linux desktop thing a couple years ago, and switched back to Windows 2000 as my primary desktop after some time. While I know the Linux desktop has improved (and I have dabbled in trying Linux as a desktop since then for a month or so), I still thought 2000 and eventually XP was just a better platform with Linux on another box or in a VMware window....

    I recently had grown tired of XP, and Linux still wasn't cutting it, so I bought a PowerMAC G4 and love it. OSX offers the best of both worlds. While it still does not have all the programs XP does, it still has more than Linux. On top of that, all the hardware I was running on XP run under OSX, I can easily and seemlessly run X applications using XFree's rootless X server, and ALSO there is a VMware like program called VirtualPC which allows me to run x86 OS's in VM windows (right now, running XP, OpenBSD and Linux in the VM's).

    Also, since the mac processors are just a tad better, I get better performance and my machine never bogs down. (Yes, look for me doing those Mac "switch" commercials in the near future! ;).

    I just think this is the best of both worlds.
  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:09PM (#3858446) Homepage Journal
    "on the desktop" has come along way in recent years, yet could still stand much improvement."

    Amusing. Every time I say this I get modded down.
  • by Telex4 ( 265980 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:10PM (#3858460) Homepage
    Saying GNU/Linux isn't ready for the desktop based on you setting it up misses the point slightly... you found it difficult to set it up for your desktop, and as someone has already said, had you stuck to one distro, you *might* have got a nice desktop working. But what if someone came along and set it all up nicely for you? What if they got the fonts working, installed KDE with KOffice so you don't have to worry about Open/StarOffice's silly font system, got all the drivers sorted, put some nice little games on, put almost all of the software you needed on, and then gave it to you?

    A friend of mine recently set-up a box for my parents, who have used Windows for the past few years, and freaked when IE crashed on them... the only thing they whined about was the Internet not working, but that's a bug we can fix. Other than that, because it was set-up, they were content, and it didn't crash, and the GIMP was faster than Photoshop.

    If a company were to sell vanilla boxes all with the same hardware, one install and ghosting would solve all your problems except for X being sluggish.

    My point is that your conclusions are generalised and oversimplistic. Yes, give a CD to a friend and they'll kill you for the stress you give them. But find someone who is able to set-up the box nicely for them, and they're not likely to be *that* miffed. There's still work, but its not like GNU/Linux is a no-go, oh well let's look at Windows and MacOSX... it's just an option. Nobody except the immature slashdotters pretend it matters if certain people prefer one OS to another, just so long as people in the end have the *choice* to go with a more free OS.
  • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:10PM (#3858461) Homepage
    From the article:

    When (not if) I go back to Linux, I'll definitely try SuSE again.

    So on the long-term, we're still doing something good very well. We don't need or even want a 100% userbase at the moment.

    My home server still runs Mandrake, and IPCop on my gateway/firewall. There is no way I'd ever put any form of Windows on my server, nor would I ever connect a Windows PC directly to the internet without a *NIX gateway in between. Microsoft has a history of poor security, so I protect myself the only way I know how; using Linux. I will continue to advocate the use of GNU/Linux in the server arena. This is where its strength lies at the moment.

    Tony, when you're back in a couple of years or even a decade, remind me to buy you a beer.

    My wife and I use Mozilla for web browsing and email, for word processing, and Psi (Jabber client) for instant messaging. All of these are true multi-user win32 programs, and are perfectly interoperable with their Linux counterparts.

    And all of these are free software, so when KDE 5.0 and SuSE 12.0 are out, you can use those applications without any of the problems a lot of developers are now working on.
  • the average user (Score:4, Insightful)

    by redtoade ( 51167 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:13PM (#3858494) Homepage Journal

    "Mr Joe Average is someone who wants to install their OS, boot it up, and it works. He wants to be able to upgrade his PC , and have the hardware work in a few short minutes. He wants to read email, browse the web, talk to his mates online, and play some games."

    That's EXACTLY right.

    The biggest problem with Linux on the desktop is that there isn't a standard desktop. Which ironically is also it's best feature.

    If you want linux to actually compete on the desktop, you need to have one desktop to represent the linux desktop. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have the freedom to tweak it to your heart's content. But the starting place for everyone should be the same. To convert an average user (ie. a user that doesn't give two cents about programming, but just wants to use the computer), you need to keep the learning curve as flat as possible. It's unfortunate that every distribution seems to have it's own way of doing things. Which means from linux box to linux box the computer will be completely alien to the inexperienced user.

    Again, for an experienced user, this is a feature!

    But to the average user this is just pure annoyance. They don't care what is happening underneath the desktop. They want to use their computer the way they use their TV. Turn it on, pick a channel, watch, turn off (repeat).

    Not only are the distributions different, but versions of a distribution change too dramatically! I've had to change my desktop appearance at least 3-4 times in the last 2 years. And I've stuck to one distribution. From RedHat 6.2 to 7.3, I've seen gmc dissapear for nautilus, linuxconf go bye-bye and I still can't get zip files to open up within the file manager the way they used to. If this were my mother on her computer, she would have traded it in for WinXP the instant that her favorite webpages disappeared. There's no way that you're going to get her to go spelunking for config scripts!

    A common desktop would be a nice start. But if you can't get all of the distributions to agree to one, then at least have a very small common "set" of desktops from which to choose. Upon installation you could have a "What OS are you familiar with?" checkbox, and then build the desktop accordingly (similar to KDE). This would also make the learning curve less steep. Win9x, Mac, OS/2, gnome, whatever... but in such a fashion that the average user would know exactly what to expect. Then the expert is free to go in and modify it to whatever he/she would like!

  • by TootsMutant ( 522541 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:17PM (#3858550)
    It's a little perverse, but I think one of the strengths of Windows is that it's such crap, and no one outside of Redmond really tries to convince you otherwise.

    Take some other OS, like MacOS: My experience has been that if something breaks, you generally get useless answers like "Well, mine works fine" or "It shouldn't do that" or "I don't know how to help you," largely because normally, the thing works ok. People who can fix really difficult problems on Macs are few and far between in my experience.

    Likewise, on Linux, intractible problems are answered with "You're doing something wrong" or "You're stupid" or "You don't want to do that" or "Recompile the kernel." There are lots of experts, many of whom are helpful, and can often help fix the problem, albeit without ever imparting to the naive user what they have to do to dig themselves out the next time. In the mean time, the user just feels stupid.

    Windows, on the other hand, breaks and breaks often. Go to your nearby expert, and they'll roll their eyes and say, "Yeah, that happened to me, too" (probably because it did). First off, we have a community being built: users screwed by Windows. The nerd comes over, eats beer and pizza while he fixes your problem, all the while reassuring the user that it isn't because he was stupid, but because Windows sucks. User feels a lot less slighted, and because the tweakability is so limited on Windows, he might even learn to do it himself. Probably not, but at least he won't feel bad about asking for help again, 'cause he knows he won't be blamed.

    We're all in it together.
    • I think you're absolutely right wrt Windows; everyone who is anyone knows that it's total crap, and there is lots of beer and pizza to be consumed over many bizarre breakdowns/failures of hardware and software. Maybe he won't suffer a blow to his self-esteem because his computer is broken, but I would imagine he's still pissed that he can't just install a CD-RW and a scanner at the same time.

      However, my experience dictates the inverse of your statement about MacOS. When someone's Mac has a problem, the same tactics will work for fixing most problems with OS 9 on down, because your list of software culprits is relatively short, and nearly all of them live in the system folder. Usually. Anyone who tells you, "Well, it shouldn't do that," or "Mine works fine" probably doesn't have any interest in helping you fix it, anyways.

      Meanwhile, I am rendered helpless at the myriad ways Windows finds to screw its users, and its total unwillingness to explain to you why it died. When people ask me why the blue screen o' death appears, I have no other answer than, "It just does that sometimes. Heck, maybe someone else did it to you... there's no way to know." And so I fear that Microsoft is directly responsible for the distrust many people have for computers - they simply don't know that there are ways you can have a computer that isn't frustrating.
      And that's too bad.

  • RTFM (Score:5, Informative)

    by r41nm4n ( 413957 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:24PM (#3858608)

    Elitism drives people away, as does saying "RTFM" or belittling people who choose a different distro from yourself.

    I totally agree. I sat in a meeting with a cocky systems administrator wearing an RTFM t-shirt. When it came to deciding who got layed off, he was the first to go. He may have been very good with UNIX and Linux systems, but speaking in a condescending tone made people who worked with him feel small. He had to go.

    • Re:RTFM (Score:3, Informative)

      See also my talk Geek Culture Considered Harmful [] that I gave a few weeks ago at YAPC. It addresses this very issue of the condecension of those in-the-know against the rest of the world who doesn't, or who disagrees.

      It's ostensibly about the Perl community, but it speaks to the rest of Open Source as well.

  • Linux needs games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fastball ( 91927 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:43PM (#3858832) Journal
    My parents, fed up with how their PC had been brought to its knees by AOL and Windows Me (I know, I know), asked me if I could come up with something easier. I had been singing of Linux to them for some time, and I decided I'd try to set up their box with a Linux distro in such a way that they could do what they typically do with a PC. E-mail, web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet stuff, and personal finance. It was a snap.

    I brought my Redhat 7.3 CDs with me (burnt from ISOs) and went to work installing as minimal a workstation setup as I could. These baby boomers aren't going to break out gcc and go to hacking on CVS source any time soon. I left off as much as I could without running into RPM hell with dependencies. An hour later, we were up and running.

    We subscribe to a local DSL provider, a telco, and the Internet is just a /usr/sbin/netconfig away.

    Went online and downloaded OpenOffice 1.0 and Mozilla 1.0. All that was left was a decent personal finance package. Off we went to grab GnuCash.

    Acclamating my folks to OpenOffice and Mozilla was easy, because after all, a web browser is a web browser and a office suite is an office suite (licensing aside, of course). GnuCash was a little tougher to sell to my dad who is a MS Money fanatic. Time will tell if he'll stick with GnuCash long enough for this experiment to pass muster, but I'm optimistic.

    So the weekend over, I leave satisfied that I've freed two more human beings, my parents no less, from the confines of proprietary software. The drive home is a beautiful thing.

    Then my mom calls. She wants to know if I can reinstall Monopoly (by Infogrames for Windows 95/98). And dad wants me to reinstall SimCity. These are their two favorite things to do with the PC. They've probably etched a couple of deep grooves in their hard drive where these these two programs reside. In short, we're fucked in full.

    To make a long story short, I was able to satisfy my mom's Monopoly jones by installing Kapitalist [], a free Monopoly type game. She missed the animations that the Infrogrames game provided, but she got by. My dad however was SOL. I was hoping to find a copy of SimCity 3000 Unlimited by Loki [], but as most of you know Loki is no more. My dad took it in stride, and explained that he'll just find another game to get hooked on. As you can see my parents are gamers, and I do love them so for that.

    Problem. Finding and installing a quality game for Linux that a Linux neophyte or general non-hacker can install is difficult. Remember, my folks were running with AOL before all of this. They don't want to worry about glibc versions and the like.

    So my folks were happy that they could get online with one click to Mozilla, happy they could read and compose documents and spreadsheets, and curious about GnuCash's abilities, but they seriously doubted they could have any fun in between.

    I would say that a Linux distro, if properly tamed, can be a quality desktop solution provided you're willing to bite the gaming bullet. How many of us dual-boot for this alone? Sorry to hear we lost one to the dark side, especially after 3.5 years of grinding it out.

  • by Salamander ( 33735 ) <> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:45PM (#3858866) Homepage Journal

    My reasons for not using Linux on the desktop are similar to this guy's, and I'd be willing to bet that very few of the people reading this are more technically able than I am so maybe it's another interesting data point. I was in the kernel group hacking the guys of a sophisticated SMP UNIX ten years ago and nowadays I write distributed filesystems for a living. I hack all day at work, then I go home and often hack some more. Conventional wisdom says I should love Linux, but it - and XFree86, which for all intents and purposes is part of the same package - has always been a big pain in the ass for me. Some examples:

    • Video support. Not too long ago I got a Shuttle SV24 bare-bones computer and got Linux running on it pretty quickly...but I could never get XFree86 4.x to work properly with the built-in graphics (fortunately 3.3.x works well enough). I tried the suggestions at, at the vendor's site, at a third-party driver maintainer's site. All had complex installs, plus extra hacking I had to figure out on my own; none yielded anything better than a system hung hard.
    • Hardware monitoring. Ever tried to install lm_sensors? It wouldn't even build properly (as modules) without hacking, the auto-detection didn't work at all, and the docs were a joke. After over an hour experimenting with different drivers I did find the combination of four or five that actually works, and put together my own startup script.
    • Backup. The "standard tools" are stone age. The very best Linux backup programs are comparable to the built-in backup program on Windows, assuming that you have CD-writing software that works (if that's your preferred medium) and don't mind adding cron jobs yourself.

    OK, let's compare how Windows did in these areas.

    • The video card was recognized automatically and set up immediately. The driver has been updated at least once since then, without a hitch.
    • Within half an hour of when I went looking, I'd found a half-dozen temperature/fan monitor programs. Every one installed easily and worked just fine right away.
    • Backup. Even though the built-in backup program was really quite adequate, I went looking for something a little better wrt incremental-backup behavior. Half an hour later I'd evaluated several alternatives, downloaded and installed the one that looked best, and started my backup.

    Pretty stark comparison, isn't it? Now, the point isn't to say that Windows is all that great. As an OS professional I can recognize some of the very serious design mistakes they made, and their business practices deserve plenty of condemnation. It's also not my point that Linux is bad technically, although I have to say it's nowhere near as cutting-edge as its proponents would have you believe. The point is that one OS lets me add capabilities quickly and painlessly, while the other forces me to waste hours on broken builds, broken installs, and general dicking around with stuff that in my own professional life I'd barely even dignify by calling it a prototype.

    As a result of all this, I don't consider Linux suitable as a user environment. When I'm doing development I prefer to do it on logging into a Linux box remotely from my Windows desktop. It's not because I'm stupid, or lazy; as I said, I love to hack. It's because when I sit down at a computer I have a task in mind other than babysitting my OS. Maybe some people enjoy doing that for its own sake, but I went through that phase a long time ago and I have very little patience for it now. Windows simply wastes less of my time.

  • nirvana of computing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by valmont ( 3573 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @02:58PM (#3858985) Homepage Journal

    he should have moved to a Mac running OS X.

    If you want a platform that has absolutely ALL the benefits of a BSD unix platform, including security by design, stability, reliability, on TOP the ability to use your machine as an everyday desktop operating system to perform any task such as accounting, web surfing, office documents authoring, J2EE web applications development, mess around a tcsh shell, author and run scripts, play with your /etc/hosts file to filter ad servers, mixed-network-protocol networking at both server AND client levels, open any document from any other platform, create PDF documents from any application from which you can print, then OS X is the operating sytem for you.

    you don't believe me?

    Check out my journal to see my migration story from a win2k laptop to a titanium powerbook. []

    You want to see more gorey details on some of the crazy things you can do with OS X?

    Then you might wanna take a look at this journal entry [].

    Face it. OS X is by far, and i'm carefuly measuring my words here, the absolute best operating system whether you're a unix geek, a business development drone, an engineer or ... my Mom.

  • So let's see.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @03:20PM (#3859142)
    OK, this article is fair and reasonable, and touches on the current weaknesses of Linux. However, he's misisng a fairly fundamental point here:

    The fact that it's free, and not controlled by any one individual is it's biggest strength but also it's biggest weakness

    The reason people bitch and moan about the fact that at the moment, desktop linux is not 100% perfect is simple: they've never seen this development model before. I can guarantee you, if I'd shown this person an early version of Windows (by comparing timescales, current Linux would be Windows 3.1) he'd barf. Ditto for showing people early betas of Mac OS X. I did in fact see some early betas of OS X and they sucked. Font support wasn't there right. Graphics was SLOW! Ditto with Mozilla, ditto with most software in fact.

    People tend to forget that you can see Linux in all stages of its development. There is no period of hidden years with developers scurrying away under NDAs, you see it all the time. Yes, I know SuSE is on version 8, and KDE is on 3, but that's not to imply they are "ready" for anything, only that some people want to see them. Pretend the versions have the word beta in front of them. Happy now? Because that's basically the state of play at the moment.

    All the problems he raised will be sorted out, and at the current rate of progress soon:

    • X: why do people bitch about it so much? I think this guy heard "X is slow dude" and believed it. Seriously, I don't see any serious speed problems with X, maybe this was a problem a few years ago but I wasn't using Linux back then. SHM means communication between the server is basically instant. I would be more impressed if I could see statistics that demonstrate that X is much slower than anything else, not subjective impressions. Fonts are simply a technical issue, they will be fixed in time.
    • Drivers: I was under the impression that kernel modules were pretty version independant. Of course this point wil always be valid to some extent, because people can and do make their own kernel versions. Anybody can change it enough so that kernel modules no longer work - I can't see how this point is valid as the majority of users need never recompile their kernel (I never have).
    • Hardware setup: Linux doesn't have a few billion dollars lying around like some other platforms I could mention, and hardware vendors don't play ball. I can't see how this is the fault of Linux per se, it's merely an inevitable result of the fact that Linux is an open (non-proprietary) platform without any resources to buy the stuff, and currently without enough market share to make it worth their while. In time, hardware vendors will start producing drivers.
    • Software distribution: yep, he's right here. As a side project, I'm working on a solution, as are many other people. This one will be solved in time, and is basically caused by the fact that there is no software management engine powerful enough to deal with the myriad differences between different Linux versions.
    • Support: in time, this won't be a problem. Besides, has every Windows techie always been smiles and helpfulness? Most windows users rely on technical friends/family for when things go wrong - you have to rely on a stranger if you're unlucky and don't know any other Linux users. Elitists can be a problem, especially on IRC, but as Linux usage goes up, this will recede into the background.
    To be honest, with the difficulties Linux has faced, I'm amazed it's here at all. All it's current problems will be solved given time, and at the end, we'll have an open platform that is available to all on equal terms. I think that's a fair reward for not having a tight hierarchy of leaders/dictators writing platforms for profit with everything under their control. I, for one, am not going back.
  • Pain in the Nix (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jpthegeek ( 540303 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @03:23PM (#3859165) Journal
    I just bought a mac. Until now I have always wondered what it was exactly that Apple brought to the table. Until OS-X it just wasn't worth it, but now... I don't even bring the WinXP notebook home anymore and my Win2000 machine has become a big chunk of DASD on my network.
    Sure, I tried Redhat and Caldera. They are nice, but Apple got it right. Unix stability with a beutiful GUI. Unless there are drastic changes to XP, I have no doubt that my next purchase will be a Mac.
    Go buy a Mac. Nix on the desktop is wonderful.
  • by mactari ( 220786 ) <rufwork AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @04:14PM (#3859577) Homepage
    Olde Cmdr Taco says:
    [Some of his points are wrong, but it's a reasonable article.]

    I'm a little lost on how any of the author of the linked article's subjective feelings on the suitability of *NIX on the desktop can be "wrong". I think he's done a good job to document his gripes when they deserve it, and I bet he'd be the first to admit that perhaps his $99 (Australian) CD-RW isn't representative of every IDE drive out there.

    But you can't fault this guy for not being honest or for not doing his research. Heck, the only point I could find to argue with at all was in this quote:
    [When I move a window [in WinXP], it refreshes so fast that I don't miss X11 at all. While not quite as nice as some other operating systems, font support is outstanding compared to XFree86.]

    "other operating systems" links to Mac OS X. I hope he meant font support, b/c the Finder's dog slow in Appleland. ;^)

    Sounds like a reasonable cross-platform guy who's done his research to me. Though his reasons for not using Linux on the desktop might not be the same as someone else's, that doesn't make him wrong. [-1 Troll] Mr. Taco.
  • for the average user (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ProfKyne ( 149971 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @04:56PM (#3859915)

    Mr Joe Average is someone who wants to install their OS, boot it up, and it works. He wants to be able to upgrade his PC , and have the hardware work in a few short minutes. He wants to read email, browse the web, talk to his mates online, and play some games. Feel free to disagree with me, this is merely how I see myself. Note: I'm not referring to Grandma using Linux, or even my mum using it. I'm referring to average users who know a little about their computer.

    Sounds like you want Mac OS X.

    Step forward, not back. It's real, it's powerful, it's easy, and you can sleep at night.

  • Windows Refugee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Redline ( 933 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @05:02PM (#3859973) Homepage Journal
    Switching from MS Windows to Linux is like fleeing a country run by a mad tyrant dictator.
    Sure, in your new home you might have to work a little harder, but at least you are free. You can even participate in the local politics if you want. Maybe the food isn't as good as in the motherland, but at least the ingredients are listed on the label.
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Wednesday July 10, 2002 @06:36PM (#3860661) Journal
    I liked his article because it makes so much sense in this FUD filled area of which OS to use. Linux needs to be able to accept criticism to grow. Without criticism, the OS stagnates. His points on framebuffers are also interesting. X is the one thing that to me makes Linux ungainly. A much smaller system that would be more modular (not confined to GTK) would be nice.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal