It was recently announced on Slashdot that Desktop Linux is dead. Perfect flame bait! Of course all the Linux zealots insisted that it is very much alive, and one even claimed that it works mostly without any headache and tinkering.
But none of my desktop installations worked out-of-the-box so far: I always had to search information on the Internet, download stuff, read through documentation and work on the command line in order to get everything up and running the way I want to. And here is a list of things that I had to fix during the last one or two years, mostly on various versions of Ubuntu Linux:
- WLAN: The rt2870sta driver was broken in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, so network was dead after upgrading. Solution: Upgrade to an early alpha of 10.10, with tons of new headaches. In any case I had to blacklist the broken rt2800usb driver before anything worked.
- Sound over HDMI: Only works with specific versions of the NVidia graphics card driver and needs manual settings for ALSA (~/.asoundrc) because the Ubuntu sound preferences don't allow me to select HDMI as default output.
- Sound in general: My laptop has an odd flavour of Intel HDA which NEVER works. I tried to pass arcane options to the module, and eventually playback, internal AND external mic worked! Pulse audio is still weirdly bugged (sometimes no playback) and I have to keep the volume at 10%, otherwise sound is distorted.
- GPIB drivers: Version shipped in Ubuntu 9.10 DOESN'T INSTALL! Had to replace part of the package with code from the latest GPIB upstream release. The driver itself is bugged and hangs itself if a program accessing the bus dies unexpectedly.
- Using an Ipod: I had to try several programs. Rhythmbox screwed the Ipod so bad that it didn't work anymore. GTKpod finally worked and even fixed that mess for me, thank goodness!
- DVD playback: Always needs libdvdcss2 from third parties as well as some other packages. And VLC as well as xine tend to crash. I never got the default movie player to work...
- wine: If installing something works by double-clicking setup.exe, celebration! If I just have to look for some DLLs, I consider myself lucky.
- 9.04 preinstalled on a netbook did not allow to use the best screen resolution. Practically unusable! Upgrading to 9.10 fixed it.
- My laptop's touchpad is completely dead after suspending and waking up.
Any newbie user would be pretty much lost if he encountered any of these problems. ESPECIALLY preinstalled versions of Linux are poorly configured, and too much common hardware is not properly supported. But the fact that I still use Linux on all my computers means that it can't be too bad... Most stuff I could fix at the end of the day, and many, many things work much better than on other operating systems.
My conclusion: Desktop Linux is certainly not dead, it is just not mainstream. And that's not a bad thing, in my opinion.