Some Moans, Mutterings and General Bitching about Linux
Written by TAD
If you are a Linux programmer, or a freak who gets off reading about Linux and sticking pins in a wax doll of Gill Bates, then please don't read this article as it may upset you, so instead go and hug your little fluffy penguin.
After seeing so much hype about Linux (the OS of the future blah blah...) and reading about how it is going to take over the entire world and rummours that a ZX81 version is under development...
Ok, that last one was a joke, but you get the general idea. So yesterday when I saw the Red Hat 5.2 Linux cover disk on a computer mag I thought:
"Hmmm... great, now I can try this fantastic new operating system out."
But after spending a minimum of ten boring hours struggling to get it to work, I finally gave up and had the difficult task of restoring my system back to a working Windows 95 one.
The bug ridden interface and lack of any decent documentation did not help this situation. The partition software was a royal pain in the rear and its name "Disk Druid" was well chosen, you needed to perform some kind of hard-drive sacrifice in order to get it to work!
I agree with Gill Bates
Man, I found that sentence really difficult to type in.
The Linux software (especially installation) and documentation is absoluelty lousey. This might sound cruel, but it had to be FREE, there is no way that someone could charge for it!!
Sorry, but this was my impression. I don't know about the backgrounds of the Linux coders, but their releases are sadly not professional enough. There are so many small, simple things which were wrong that it created the feeling of early 1980's shareware. You know, the sort of "When it doesn't crash, it works okay..." feeling. Some of the most basic interface techniques were either missing, or iffy in their implementation. Things like checking the avaliable disk space before trying to install, displaying the total spaced needed for each item, or telling the user what each program does.
It's not good slagging off M1cr0$0ft if your replacement is even worse!
Moans about Linux
So this is the OS of the future? Well, only if you build a time machine and visit the last century. To put it bluntly - IT SUCKS, BIG TIME!! If any of you are considering trying Linux then please, please, please DON'T not unless you like headaches, using bug filled software and reinstalling Windows and everything else back on your machine. If you want to check it out then find someone with it already installed and play around with it for an hour or more. If this hasn't put you off Linux already, then check that ALL of your hardware is supported by it, it probably isn't.
I've just looked at some old issues of Hugi and the articles by Serun and Paranoid and I totally agree with their views. In short Linux may gather a large support base perhaps even as big as the C64 users, but in the long term it is doomed to failure, and so is Windows 95, 98, 2000 or whatever lame name they come up with at the MoneySoft Corp.
Users (and I include coders in this) don't want a difficult OS, they want a clean, fast and most important of all, RELIABLE Operating System. Who cares if you can alter every single parameter of every single program for every different document/file type? I don't. I just want something that works from one day to the next with the minimum of fuss in terms of using applications and programming it.
Although I am definitely NOT a fan of Steve (I am your Messiah) Jobs and his Apple creations I like some of his/their design philosophy towards building machines and Operating System.
"To keep 'em simple, keep 'em clean and keep 'em reliable."
This should be the way of the future and design should (in my view anyway) follow this idea. I really hate having to wade through page after page of set up information and options just to install a program. Some companies, it seems, like to add features just to fill up space to give the impression that their software is "powerful". This is where I feel design and the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!!) mental approach can help. And this is where I think Linux fails, BIG TIME. I have been coding for years and years and like to think I have more than a basic understanding of computer jargon, so I was amazed how difficult it was to understand the Linux installation and figure out why it didn't work. If I was a newbie user and saw Linux's installation then I would instantly run a mile towards Windows.
I really dislike Windows as much as everyone else, but I dislike Linux even more from what little I have seen of it, perhaps if I had spent one hour installing it and nine hours using it then my views might be completely different.
I hope to try BeOS within the next few weeks. I really want to see a new OS for the PC and soon. Something without all the hassle and hype that claims to be multi-tasking, but in fact can hardly manage to work for a single application.
When all the hype about Linux has died down you can be sure M1cr0$0ft will still be making Operating Systems, just look at all the resources they have. As for Linux being FREE, how come I see so many pieces of software and latest version of the OS being sold for more and more money? I know most of it is free, but the problem is that of distribution and managing all the new versions. With Linux you need to download library X from site Y with version Z and then install it in order A,B,C,D otherwise it won't work. Most of these instructions were hidden in the small print in a folder called
What do you mean, you didn't read it? It clearly written in the jargon on page 171, section 57b in the part called "Crop rotation in the 14th century" under the words, "Skip this section if your PC is more than 1 week old".
For me this lies at the very core of the Linux problem. It's a real credit that all the coders all over the world have managed to get this far, but the real advantage of having one large corp. like Mickeysoft and Gill Bates is that there is some kind of "vision", or long term strategy (even if most of us don't like it). There needs to be an extremely well organized design which all the coders can follow instead of each of them doing their "own thing" and hoping it works with all the other code.
I really think it is time for some new visionary to come along with a new, fresh approach on the Operating System problem, taking the good bits from a GUI interface and throwing away all the bad bits from command lines and GUI clones. It is strange that Linux should look back to Unix instead of to the future, but thinking about this so did MSDOS and Windows (do the names CPM and Xerox mean anything to you?).
I personally like DOS (I know this is not a popular view) for coding using the good old Brief editor. Why? Well, because it's fast (there is no waiting for a 1-meg window to be drawn in 16 million colours), I can customize it quickly, it takes up so little disk and memory space and best of all it seems far more stable than Windows 95 ever is.
With 64 bit and 128 bit machines getting ever closer as well as the 1 Ghz clock speed, shouldn't there be a more powerful, USER-FRIENDLY Operating System to go with it? I don't mean one with 16 million colour icons and animated windows, but something which even a total computer newbie can pick up and use instantly. The "Drag-and-Drop" interface is a good start, but the fully potentional isn't being used yet (in my opinion).
I can remember reading that hardware is about 10 years ahead of software. And this is kinda true, after all the price has to drop enough for developers to get their hands on it, then they have to learn how to use it correctly and then finally create applications which use it. If an OS was simply a piece of hardware like a vacuum cleaner, microwave oven or telephone then it would be far, far cheaper, faster and a million times more reliable than what we have today.
The Final Thought
I hope the OS of the future will be "of the future" and not something which emulates a thing from 20 years ago. I know that a GUI interface is not the perfect solution, but until something better comes along it will have to do.
Oh well, I'm off to have a look at BeOS on the web. I hope it is better than Linux, otherwise I will be stuck with Windows and we all know how much that sucks.
I originally wanted to call this article "Lame-ux", but I didn't want to slag off the hard work of other coders. I really do hope that a new, FREE Operating System for the PC will be found that is easy to use and install. It may even be Linux, but from what I have seen so far it will take another 10 years for it to be of any real use. Sorry Linux freaks!!