And now, for something slightly different: In moments of weakness, Bryan admits that maybe Linux suckage isn't total, and Linux may have a good point or two and maybe some of the suckage could be removed. Zounds! Is that possible? Watch our video chat with Bryan (and/or read the transcript) and see. Or watch the entire 44 minute speech he gave at the 2014 LinuxFest Northwest, which was the 5th (or maybe 6th) "Linux Sucks" speech he's given at LFNW. That makes this a tradition, not just a speech. So if you find yourself in or near Bellingham, Washington, in 2039 you might want to pop in and see if Bryan is still updating his "Linux Sucks" speech. He'll be the geezer hobbling to the front of the room with help from his AutoCane, a device sure to be developed between now and then -- which will no doubt run Linux. (Alternate video link)
Timothy: So Bryan, you have been saying for a long time and here at LinuxFest Northwest among other places: “Linux Sucks.”
Bryan: Yeah, it sucks. It is terrible.
Timothy: And you said that as someone who loves Linux. So let’s talk about why you came to have this negative attitude.
Bryan: It is not a negative attitude, man. It is just a realistic attitude. It is like if you go out and you buy a car and you are like: This is my Prius, man. This is a Prius. It is a hybrid fusion whatever drive and that’s awesome, right? Because you get mega good mileage and it has all these great things about it. But it is also kind of a douche mobile and you have to understand that it sucks even though it is awesome. Everything’s got its pluses and minuses, even things that you love. I love Linux, I have made my whole life around Linux. I work for Linux companies. I write for Linux magazines, but it really blows.
Timothy: Now, you seem to have some especially harsh words this year for a few of the big name companies, what are the worst things, what makes Linux suck in 2014 that really shouldn’t be true?
Bryan: You know, the big things for me, there is two big things: First, there is a pervasive culture within the Linux world of needless, senseless fortuitous forking that makes a man a little bit grumpy. My favorite example is the current one, is the OpenSSL problems. We have OpenSSL that the whole internet requires to do anything, one little heart bleeding problem happens everyone loses their bananas and someone decides to fork OpenSSL and make LibreSSL. Which makes absolutely no sense, because now you have two incredibly important security libraries out there that you have to maintain, which basically means you are twice as likely, that’s just a random made-up statistic, but twice as likely to have problems like what we just experienced. But yet, it is part of our culture. So we just do it. We fork things. We don’t like it a little bit, we fork it. We don’t like GNOME? Let’s fork it, and make something that’s 99.9% identical to GNOME. So that’s a little bit annoying. The other big thing for me right now is the attitude of certain companies that shall not be named, that just like to kind of maverickally go their own thing. You know, they just decide, “I don’t like any desktop environment”, “I don’t like any desktop compositing window manager”, “I don’t like anything”, “I am going to rewrite it all from scratch, and all you guys can go to hell”. Okay they don’t actually say that. But that’s how a lot of us feel. So that’s the other thing that kind of gets my goat lately. There are lots of other little problem, but those are the two. Those are the ones.
Timothy: Now, let’s say relative suckiness.
Bryan: Relative levels of suckiness?
Timothy: So we are here, this is the 15th year that this particular gathering has been going on. And in that time, we’ve seen a lot of cool improvements and your talk, to be fair, for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, you aren’t entirely down on Linux. What are the good things that have happened this year?
Bryan: Alright. So to be fair, you’re right. I’ve been doing this thing for five or six years now. When we started doing this, it was: “Here is all the reasons why Linux sucks.” And it was a rapid fire list of everything that was broken. And we started it, Wi-Fi drivers, to video drivers, everything. Now to be fair, most of those things aren’t a problem anymore. So Linux works a whole hell of a lot better now than it did in, say, 2006. So nowadays when I do the presentation, it is probably ‘40% Linux Sucks’ and like ‘60% Linux Doesn’t Suck,’ because just to be fair, things have gotten a lot better. But honestly, I would say, some of the things that are the best about Linux right now are the exact same things that are the worst about Linux right now. Pervasive forking and people doing absolutely crazy stuff despite what the community thinks. I like that someone came along and said, “OpenSSL? Screw that! I want to make LibreSSL.” I like that someone had the cojones to say, “I can do this better”
Timothy: Again people who are quite competent at auditing code.
Bryan: Exactly. Competent people and passionate people. And in the end, they may be wrong. They may have gone the stupid stupid road. Or they may come up with some really awesome improvements in LibreSSL that get brought back into OpenSSL. Or vice versa. In the end, we are all going to end up benefiting. And like that company that will not be named in this particular video, that tends to go their own thing and create their own desktop environment. It’s not one that I particularly like. But I love that they are doing it. They are trying something new. They are blazing their own path. And to me, that’s kind of part of what makes Linux kick ass. I don’t want to see everyone say, “Oh well, KDE exists. So we are fried, we’ll never improve the desktop again. We will just sit.” We don’t want to be stagnant. We want to go crazy. We don’t want to be Microsoft or Apple where they just sit on their hind quarters, change the color of a couple of things every now and then, or put web pages into little tiles and call it good. We want to do cool interesting stuff. And that’s what makes Linux awesome, and what makes it suck all at the same time. I don’t see any way to actually fix that, because it is like having the Prius. It sucks. And it’s awesome. And you have to take both.
Timothy: It is like the leather seats if you are looking for an automatic transmission.
Bryan: Well, you can’t get a leather seats in a Prius, man, they are totally ruined. Animals had to die to make that Prius you know what I am saying here. You can’t do that. But they are nice, they may be felt seats.
Bryan: Yeah, right.
Timothy: In this year’s iteration of your talk, one thing you mentioned is the amazing chat client of Elementary.
Bryan: Right. Who saw that coming?
Timothy: Does that mean that Elementary doesn’t suck as much?
Bryan: Well, that’s the crazy thing. Elementary has earned, has gotten over a million users or a million downloads of the current version. They’ve had about two versions now? I think that’s it. I think that’s all they’ve ever done. And both of them are labeled beta I think. And yet, over a million people have grabbed that sucker. And it looks beautiful. And they are getting big news. And on Distrowatch, they are like number six now, they are like above, they are above Arch, they are above Slackware, they are above Gentoo. They are above the grand daddies of Linux. And I think it’s amazing that a little upstart with no funding can come along and say, “You know what? I am going to make a Linux distro that’s basically Ubuntu but with some really kick ass icons, and then see what happens from there.” I mean they did more than that. But that’s how they got started. And now they are huge. They are becoming something that could be a real force to be reckoned with. It happened with Linux Mint. Really it happened with Ubuntu. This is what made Ubuntu. They just came out of nowhere, and they were like: ‘Whatever, we are brown and orange, and that now, we have a cool distro.’ And everyone freaked out and used it. And it is awesome. I think it is amazing because it just shows that flash forward five or six years from now, Ubuntu is not probably going to be dominant, Fedora is probably not going to be dominant. The reality is it is probably going to switch and be—who knows? Mepus and Elementary and Slackware—those will be the predominant distros for a few years. And I love that. I think that’s where it could go.
Timothy: What one thing would you most like to see suck less by this time next year?
Bryan: By this time, next year? My one thing is: I would love to be done talking about X.org. I would like to never have to mention the big. Not that I have anything against the longstanding display of X. it has done such a wonderful job for us. But I would very much like to just kill off that X.org existed and say, “Okay, Weyland has not only shipped but all the distros that are big are using it, and we are just fine, and that’s what we are focusing on.” I would like to cross off X.org. That would do it for me.