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Ubuntu is the most popular Linux desktop.

The Criticism of Linux focuses on issues concerning use of operating systems which use the Linux kernel.

Contents

Viability for use as a desktop system

Linux has been criticized for a number of reasons, including lack of user-friendliness and having a high learning curve[1], being inadequate for desktop use, lacking support for exotic hardware, having a relatively small games library and lacking native versions of widely-used applications.[2]

In September 2007, Walter S. Mossberg, writing in The Wall Street Journal said of Linux desktop systems in general at that time:

...I have steered away from recommending Linux, the free computer operating system that is the darling of many techies and IT managers, and a challenger to Microsoft’s dominant Windows and Apple’s resurgent Macintosh operating system, OS X. Linux, which runs on the same hardware as Windows, has always required much more technical expertise and a yen for tinkering than average users possess.[3]

In assessing the most popular desktop distribution version in September 2007, Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn Mossberg concluded:

My verdict: Even in the relatively slick Ubuntu variation, Linux is still too rough around the edges for the vast majority of computer users. While Ubuntu looks a lot like Windows or Mac OS X, it is full of little complications and hassles that will quickly frustrate most people who just want to use their computers, not maintain or tweak them.

Before every passionate Linux fan attacks that conclusion, let me note that even the folks who make and sell Ubuntu agree with it. Mark Shuttleworth, the South African-born founder of the Ubuntu project, told me this week that "it would be reasonable to say that this is not ready for the mass market." And Dell’s Web site for its Ubuntu computers warns that these machines are for "for advanced users and tech enthusiasts".

...for now, I still advise mainstream, nontechnical users to avoid Linux.[3]

More recent Linux distributions have addressed these concerns, particularly with regards to installation and user-friendliness. A report in The Economist in December 2007 concluded[4]:

Linux has swiftly become popular in small businesses and the home. That’s largely the doing of Gutsy Gibbon, the code-name for the Ubuntu 7.10 from Canonical. Along with distributions such as Linspire, Mint, Xandros, OpenSUSE and gOS, Ubuntu (and its siblings Kubuntu, Edubuntu and Xubuntu) has smoothed most of Linux’s geeky edges while polishing it for the desktop. No question, Gutsy Gibbon is the sleekest, best integrated and most user-friendly Linux distribution yet. It’s now simpler to set up and configure than Windows.[4]

However, critics do not believe Linux will ever gain a large share in the desktop market. In May 2009 Preston Gralla, contributing editor to Computerworld.com, stated:

You simply shouldn't care about Linux on the desktop...Linux will never become an important desktop or notebook operating system...There's also some evidence that Linux market share won't likely ever get much higher than 1%, and certainly not more than 5%...Desktop Linux will simply never be popular enough for most people to care about. One big reason is the difficulty of upgrading and installing software. It's true that using the operating system itself is simple and straightforward – much easier than it was in the days when you had to be a command-line junkie to get anything done with Linux...As a desktop operating system, Linux isn't important enough to think about. For servers, it's top-notch, but you likely won't use it on your desktop – even though it did finally manage to crack the 1% barrier after 18 years.[5]

Hardware support

Hardware developers have often been reluctant to provide Linux support for their products. This had meant that a Linux user had to carefully hand pick the hardware that made up his/her system to ensure functionality and compatibility. These problems have largely been addressed.[6]

Years ago, if you wanted to install Linux on a machine you had to make sure you hand-picked each piece of hardware or your installation would not work 100 percent... This is not so much the case now. You can grab a PC (or laptop) and most likely get one or more Linux distributions to install and work nearly 100 percent. But there are still some exceptions; for instance, hibernate/suspend remains a problem with many laptops, although it has come a long way.[6]

At one time Linux systems required removable media, such as floppy discs and CD-ROMs to be manually mounted before they could be accessed. Mounting media is now automatic in nearly all distributions with the development of the HAL daemon.[7]

Some companies, such as EmperorLinux have addressed the problems of laptop hardware compatibility by mating modified Linux distributions with specially selected hardware to ensure compatibility from delivery.[8]

Distributions

Another common complaint leveled against Linux is the abundance of distributions available. As of January, 2010, Distrowatch lists 306 major distributions.[9] While Linux advocates have defended the number as an example of freedom of choice, other critics cite the large number as cause for confusion and lack of standardization in Linux operating systems. Alexander Wolfe wrote in InformationWeek:

Remember the 1980s worries about how the "forking" of Unix could hurt that operating system's chances for adoption? That was nothing compared to the mess we've got today with Linux, where upwards of 300 distributions vie for the attention of computer users seeking an alternative to Windows.[10]

Criticism by Microsoft

Microsoft has criticised Linux on servers extensively through its Get the Facts campaign.[11] In particular, it claims that the vulnerabilities of Windows are fewer in number than those of Linux distributions,[12] that Windows is more reliable and secure than Linux,[13][14] that the total cost of ownership of Linux is higher (due to complexity, acquisition costs, and support costs),[15] that use of Linux places a burden of liability on businesses, and that “Linux vendors provide little, if any indemnification coverage.”[16] In addition, the corporation published various studies in an attempt to prove this — the factuality of which has been heavily disputed[17][18] by different authors who claim that Microsoft’s comparisons are flawed.

Internal Microsoft reports from the Halloween documents leak have presented conflicting views. Particularly documents from 1998 and 1999 ceded that "Linux...is trusted in mission critical applications, and - due to its open source code - has a long term credibility which exceeds many other competitive OS's.", "An advanced Win32 GUI user would have a short learning cycle to become productive [under Linux].", "Long term, my simple experiments do indicate that Linux has a chance at the desktop market ... ",[19] and "Overall respondents felt the most compelling reason to support OSS was that it ‘Offers a low total cost of ownership (TCO)’."[20]

See also

References

  1. ^ Sharon Machlis (22 March 2007). "Living (and dying) with Linux in the workplace - A brief foray into Linux for the enterprise". Computerworld. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9013280/Living_and_dying_with_Linux_in_the_workplace. Retrieved 2007-04-15.  
  2. ^ Andy McCue (9 September 2005). "Gartner sounds desktop Linux warning". ZNet.co.uk. http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39217113,00.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-15.  
  3. ^ a b Mossberg, Walter S. (September 2007). "Linux’s Free System Is Now Easier to Use, But Not for Everyone". http://ptech.allthingsd.com/20070913/linuxs-free-system-is-now-easier-to-use-but-not-for-everyone/. Retrieved 2009-05-07.  
  4. ^ a b The Economist (December 2007). "Technology in 2008". http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10410912. Retrieved 2008-04-01 (publicly available Dec 2007-May 2009, rendered members only in May 2009, quoted at http://web.ncf.ca/fn352/ubuntu.html#Economist).  
  5. ^ Gralla, Preston (May 2009). "Opinion: Why you shouldn't care about Linux on the desktop". http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=338839. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  
  6. ^ a b Wallen, Jack (September 2008). "Ten key differences between Linux and Windows, page two". http://resources.zdnet.co.uk/articles/features/0,1000002000,39483863-2,00.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  7. ^ Wallen, Jack (September 2008). "Ten key differences between Linux and Windows, page three". http://resources.zdnet.co.uk/articles/features/0,1000002000,39483863-3,00.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  
  8. ^ EmperorLinux (2009). "EmperorLinux". http://www.EmperorLinux.com/. Retrieved 2009-05-27.  
  9. ^ Distrowatch (January 2010). "Linux Distributions - Facts and Figures". http://distrowatch.com/stats.php?section=popularity. Retrieved 2010-01-11.  
  10. ^ InformationWeek.com (2007). "Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess". http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2007/07/too_many_linux.html/;jsessionid=VAEH5NIZGL1GRQE1GHPCKHWATMY32JVN/. Retrieved 2010-01-11.  
  11. ^ "Get the Facts Home". Microsoft website. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/facts/default.mspx. Retrieved 2007-04-14.  
  12. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Security". Microsoft website. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/facts/topics/security.mspx. Retrieved 2007-04-14.  
  13. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Reliability". Microsoft website. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/facts/topics/reliability.mspx. Retrieved 2007-04-14.  
  14. ^ "Windows v Linux security: the real facts". The Register. 22 October 2004. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/22/linux_v_windows_security/.  
  15. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Total Cost of Ownership". Microsoft website. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/facts/topics/tco.mspx. Retrieved 2007-04-14.  
  16. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Intellectual Property Indemnification". Microsoft website. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/facts/topics/ipi.mspx. Retrieved 2007-04-14.  
  17. ^ Joe Barr (24 June 2005). "The facts behind the "Get the Facts" ad campaign". Newsforge. http://os.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=05/06/23/2027229&from=rss. Retrieved 2007-04-14.  
  18. ^ Nicholas Petreley (22 October 2004). "Security Report: Windows vs Linux". http://www.theregister.co.uk/security/security_report_windows_vs_linux/. Retrieved 2007-05-12.  
  19. ^ http://www.catb.org/~esr/halloween/halloween2.html
  20. ^ http://www.catb.org/~esr/halloween/halloween7.html
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File:Ubuntu 10.04
Ubuntu is the most popular Linux desktop.[1]

The Criticism of Linux focuses on issues concerning use of operating systems which use the Linux kernel.

Contents

System Directory Structure

The traditional directory structure which is a heritage from Linux's Unix roots in the 1970s has been criticized for many reasons. Adam Scheinberg in his article If I Had My Own Distro identified problems in the non-intuitive named directories for the users and indicated that he would rename them all to improve user experience.

The file system is a nightmare for a normal user. This has been covered in exhaustive detail by hundreds of articles...[2]

Hisham Muhammad, the creator of GoboLinux, started that distribution because of the limitations of the directory structure for simple and flexible user application installations.

Unfortunately, not all programs have the flexibility to be installed anywhere. Occasionally, hardcoded paths creep in, even in programs that belong in userland (which should, at least theoretically, allow themselves to be installed inside a user's home directory).[3]
Pim van Riezen also criticized the Unix approach of predefined directories in application installations:
Why, in the name of all the creatures in Richard Stallman's beard, are we still compiling applications with all kinds of absolute path references in this enlightened 21st century? Do we actively hate our users, do we want them to suffer figuring out whether we want our mandatory configuration files installed in /etc, /usr/local/etc, /usr/local/application/etc or whatever other evil place our nerdy little brains can come up with? We should find better things to do with our lives.[4]

Third-Party Application Platform

Tony Mobily, editor of Free Software Magazine, identified problems in the server roots of Linux in his article 2009: software installation in GNU/Linux is still broken -- and a path to fixing it:

Every GNU/Linux distribution at the moment (including Ubuntu) confuses system software with end user software, whereas they are two very different beasts which should be treated very, very differently.[5]

Hardware support

Hardware developers have often been reluctant to provide Linux support for their products. This had meant that a Linux user had to carefully hand pick the hardware that made up his/her system to ensure functionality and compatibility. These problems have largely been addressed.[6]

Years ago, if you wanted to install Linux on a machine you had to make sure you hand-picked each piece of hardware or your installation would not work 100 percent... This is not so much the case now. You can grab a PC (or laptop) and most likely get one or more Linux distributions to install and work nearly 100 percent. But there are still some exceptions; for instance, hibernate/suspend remains a problem with many laptops, although it has come a long way.[6]

At one time Linux systems required removable media, such as floppy discs and CD-ROMs to be manually mounted before they could be accessed. Mounting media is now automatic in nearly all distributions with the development of the HAL daemon.[7]

Some companies, such as EmperorLinux have addressed the problems of laptop hardware compatibility by mating modified Linux distributions with specially selected hardware to ensure compatibility from delivery.[8]

Distributions

Another common complaint leveled against Linux is the abundance of distributions available. As of January, 2010, Distrowatch lists 306 major distributions.[9] While Linux advocates have defended the number as an example of freedom of choice, other critics cite the large number as cause for confusion and lack of standardization in Linux operating systems. Alexander Wolfe wrote in InformationWeek:

Remember the 1980s worries about how the "forking" of Unix could hurt that operating system's chances for adoption? That was nothing compared to the mess we've got today with Linux, where upwards of 300 distributions vie for the attention of computer users seeking an alternative to Windows.[10]

Caitlyn Martin from Linux Devcenter.com has been critical of the number of Linux distributions:

We don’t need to keep reinventing Linux, creating distributions that put critical bits in interesting and inventive if unusual places. An application written for Linux should be relatively simple to install on any Linux distribution. It ain’t so. Do we really need hundreds of general purpose distributions, all with different tools, different filesystem layouts, variations on three major software package management schemes and a host of oddball ones, and so on? Do we need yet more to crop up?[11]

Desktop Use

Kernel Performance

At LinuxCon 2009 Linux creator Linus Torvalds said that the Linux kernel has become "bloated and huge," with no midriff-slimming diet plan in sight:
We're getting bloated and huge. Yes, it's a problem... Uh, I'd love to say we have a plan... I mean, sometimes it's a bit sad that we are definitely not the streamlined, small, hyper-efficient kernel that I envisioned 15 years ago... The kernel is huge and bloated, and our icache footprint is scary. I mean, there is no question about that. And whenever we add a new feature, it only gets worse.[12][13][14]

Criticism by Microsoft

In 2004, Microsoft initiated its Get the Facts campaign which specifically criticized Linux server usage.[15] In particular, it claimed that the vulnerabilities of Windows are fewer in number than those of Linux distributions,[16] that Windows is more reliable and secure than Linux,[17][18] that the total cost of ownership of Linux is higher (due to complexity, acquisition costs, and support costs),[19] that use of Linux places a burden of liability on businesses, and that “Linux vendors provide little, if any indemnification coverage.”[20] In addition, the corporation published various studies in an attempt to prove this — the factuality of which has been heavily disputed[21][22] by different authors who claim that Microsoft’s comparisons are flawed.

Internal Microsoft reports from the Halloween documents leak have presented conflicting views. Particularly documents from 1998 and 1999 ceded that "Linux...is trusted in mission critical applications, and - due to its open source code - has a long term credibility which exceeds many other competitive OS's.", "An advanced Win32 GUI user would have a short learning cycle to become productive [under Linux].", "Long term, my simple experiments do indicate that Linux has a chance at the desktop market ... ",[23] and "Overall respondents felt the most compelling reason to support OSS was that it ‘Offers a low total cost of ownership (TCO)’."[24]

Responses to criticism

The Linux community has had mixed responses to these and other criticisms. As mentioned above, while some criticism has led to new features and better user-friendliness, the Linux community as a whole has a reputation for being resistant to criticism. Writing for PC World, Keir Thomas noted that, "most of the time the world of Linux tends to be anti-critical. If anybody in the community dares be critical, they get stomped upon".[25]

See also

References

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