Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Linux usability problem

It seems that every time that I want to do something quickly in front of my Kubuntu Laptop it almost always turns into a bit of a nightmare. I'm quite conformable using a console, vi does not intimidate me anymore and I consider myself to be reasonably tech savvy, but Linux at home really does try my patience. 

At work, I really don't mind if I have to spend two hours to do something that takes 3 minutes in Windows (e.g. joining a RHEL 6 box to a Windows 2003 AD); I consider it the price one pays for freedom and most of all I really do relish the challenge. If something is hard when it's finally achieved it feels like so much more of an achievement, because it is, even if in reality it isn't, you just didn't know how to do it. 
However, when I'm at home I want things to work, I already spend 8 to 10 hours a day dealing with frustration, I don't want to do the same at home and Windows 7 just works. Just two examples that have led to loads of frustration recently:
  1. I wanted to have a look at a web page that had a java applet, which kinda works out of the box in Windows, yet I could not get it to work in Firefox and when I got it working in rekong, it did not work properly. I know there are guides to install the java plugin for firebadger but I couldn't get it to work. I also know I'm an idiot and an ignoramus for not getting to work, still. I had similar issues with Flash before I upgraded to 11.10.
  2. I acquired a Logitech webcam to do video conferencing with friends and family. I've also used it to record a few videos clowning about for said friends and family from my Windows 7 desktop. I wanted to do some clowning about in the sitting room using my kubuntu laptop but I could not get any of the various options (VLC, Mplayer,  Cheese, UVC) to work properly. No sound, would not record, would crash, etc.. Compared to plug and play, download Windows Movie Maker and off I went, it's not contest.
I guess if I didn't work in application development/support I might enjoy the challenge at home, I know I used to, but now it's just a lot of hassle for relatively little reward, I think I'm sticking with Windows 7 for home use for the time being.

To a some extent the problem is due to lack of manufacturer support, but seeing as Linux currently commands a 1% share of the desktop market, they figure it's not worth the hassle and thus fewer people will make the jump, thus not giving manufacturers a reason to invest in Linux, in other words a classical catch-22 situation.


  1. I’d sympotise with you on this. KDE is rather buggy. After almost 6 months of fiddling with Kubuntu 11.10 I abandoned it in favor of Mint. I started using Kubuntu on my netbook to test its new netbook feature designed for low power and small screen computers, and also for some eye-candy. My worst experience is rekonque crashing at least ones and at most every time while opening a website. There were other performance issues as well. Although I’m not going back to windows, I can’t really criticize you for doing so. When it comes to functionality, linux does lag in some cases. I’d recommend LinuxMint LXDE or LinuxMint GNOME instead of Kubuntu if you want to give another try.

    1. I will give Linux Mint a try next time I have to re-image my laptop. I can't be bothered with the hassle now. Thanks for the suggestion.