Thursday, August 31, 2006

Linux requires PhD in Astrophysics

I’m a simple guy. I like it when things simply work. This is why Linux is just not for me. I gave it an honest try … again. And again. And again. Each time, there was something else that I had to waste hours scouring the boards trying to find fixes for some obscure problem. My latest problem was trying to get all three monitors up and running. In Windows, it’s extremely trivial. In Linux, you need a PhD in astrophysics to figure it out. Turns out that for whatever reason, the nVidia driver and ati driver don’t like each other and won’t work simultaneously. After 40+ edits to xorg.conf, 30+ reboots after X11 hangs the entire machine, and several driver intalls later, I still had only two monitors showing. Sorry, but that third monitor is now useless. Then there’s my soundcard. It doesn’t work. Who knows why. My midi stuff – all three devices – won’t work. Scanner? No. Printer? It’s a paper weight. TV Tuner card? Sorry. Pocket PC support? Yeah, right. It’s not just hardware, either. I couldn’t even manage to install Flash in Firefox. Apparently my AMD processor isn’t supported. 3D acceleration wasn’t going anywhere fast. NOTHING FRIGGEN WORKS! I boot back into XP, and everything… EVERYTHING … works like a charm. I’m a computer scientist, not a hardware junkie. I just want to run my experiments, code on three monitors, and play games, not spend hours on end just to get a working configuration.

Now, to be somewhat fair, several hardware configurations probably work flawlessly under linux. My hardware configuration is a bit abnormal. My network card actually worked and I was able to surf the net on a working X11 display (which didn’t work after a fresh install – I had to scour the net just to get instructions for how to get my video card working, which the instructions were bad, so I had to find better instructions --- from the manufacturer --- and those didn’t work, so then I finally tried one last set of instructions, which somehow managed to work --- gah!)

Why would I want to boot into linux as a workstation, anyway? I’m doing some fun OS work and it’s kind of neat trying it on a real machine instead of a virtual machine. But alas, I’ll have to stick with a virtual machine or put together a really simple box that has absolutely nothing beyond a keyboard, a mouse, and a video card.


Anonymous Brent O'Connor said...

Those are some of the reasons that I don't use Linux as Desktop. I try to use it once in awhile as a full time desktop. My latest attempt was using Ubuntu. It installed great but I ran into the same problem setting up dual monitors. Setting up dual monitors is a pain in the butt.

In the end I ask myself the same question you asked yourself, "Why do I need Linux as a desktop when all the application I need run great on either Windows or OSX and without all the configuration hoops to go through."

If you have the time and like the challenge of setting stuff like dual or triple head monitors and like trying to find or make drivers for hardware that isn't out the there yet then I say all the power to you and enjoy!

Linux is awesome for sever stuff and command line stuff but Linux still has a ways to go with hardware support for things like main stream graphic cards and other computer peripherals. And the other major strike that Linux as a Desktop has against it, for me is that Software companies like Adobe don't have Linux versions for programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks. Linux desktop zealots will chant GIMP is the best graphic editor and can do everything. But from my experience those people just use it to touch up their latest family photo of their Grandma and aren't professional graphic designers. I've tried GIMP and it isn't as good as Photoshop and Illustrator.

I will continue to go back and try the newest and hottest distribution that comes out, to try and keep up with how Linux as a desktop is progressing but for me it still has a ways to got before I want to use it full time. But until then people like me that like the Unix command line and a nice graphical interface that just works still have OSX!

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Sterling Hanenkamp said...


I've not had the same experience, then. When I got my Dell Inspiron 5 years ago, Debian installed faster and worked better in two hours than two days of fighting XP Pro---mostly because the Geforce 2 Go didn't yet have a certified driver.

I recently installed Ubuntu on that same machine and it's been dreamy. I did have a hiccup related to the graphics card, but that was solved by just using the safe mode Ubuntu installer. Terri has been really happy because that 5 year old laptop works now as a browser/email machine. For a long while, XP Pro + 5 years of patches had basically rendered the machine painfully slow and nearly useless (even with a fresh install just a few months before).

Anyway, I don't have a PhD (and I have no plans to get one!), but I'm very happy with Linux.

Now, I just need to get you try Mac OS X and see what you say. ;) It's dreamy too.

Ben, don't be a hater. :P Cheers.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something tells me that I ought to bring my wife home from Delaware as the Linux death squad is probably setting up snipers as we speak.

Anyway - yup to everything that Ben says. I'm having all kinds of troubles installing Linux on a Proliant server that I just purchased from a friend. It is an old machine, but Windows Server 2003 installed and runs okay (only 256MB RAM).

I have tried using Ubuntu as a desktop client, and have even installed it on a few computers for users who wanted to save some money. Works great if you need a computer that is only going to be used to surf the net or for basic word processing. I don't know that I would put it on a workstation that is used as a full fledged business machine.


3:54 AM  
Blogger mahasiswa teladan said...

hi...Im student from Informatics engineering nice article,
thanks for sharing :)

2:19 AM  

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