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What Linux really lacks

Linux does not lack user friendliness any more. Ubuntu. openSUSE. Try them out.
Linux does not lack quality software. Openoffice.org. Firefox. Pidgin. Thunderbird. They all run on Linux.
Linux does not lack power. It runs on the widest range of hardware.
Linux does not lack company backing. Novell. Canonical. Red Hat. They are large corporations.
Linux does not lack hardware support. Most computer hardware actually runs more easily with Linux than other OSes.

What, then, does Linux really lack?

The answer could be:

  • Wide spread adoption
  • GUI emphasis
  • Wide range of mundane software
  • People willing to learn Linux

Actually, it’s none of them.

What Linux lacks is an image. A unified brand. A single banner under which Linux can fly. One of Linux’s greatest strengths (diversity) is also perhaps its greatest weakness. Linux was, and still is, considered a geek’s OS.

Perhaps the large companies such as Novell and Canonical should, every now and then, put out an advertisement that shows just how good Linux has become for the average Joe.

The more, the merrier, I always say.

  1. 28 July 2009 at 1:10 PM

    Linux lacks a graphics editor that’s as good as Photoshop. Let’s not even mention a good substitute for Dreamweaver.

  2. Lake-end
    28 July 2009 at 4:01 PM

    95% of your garden variety users do not need nor do not use Photoshop and let’s indeed not even mention Dreamweaver. Photoshop actually runs very well under wine, and if Adobe actually wanted, it could quite easily release it similiarly like Google releases Picasa or Google Earth, wine packaged.

  3. 28 July 2009 at 5:44 PM

    Indeed. As Wine improves, Linux doesn’t even lack that one essential Windows app working.

    (iTunes is a moving target, annoyingly. But lots of people remain hard at work on getting it to work properly. Past versions work well, but then Apple changes it again …)

  4. 28 July 2009 at 5:58 PM

    @ windmonger: Lake-end is right – Not even 2% of computer users need anything close to full Photoshop functionality. And for everything else, there’s GIMP. There are gaps in Linux software, but those gaps are closing fast. And those few gaps will be gone the moment people recognize Linux for what it really is.

    @ Lake-end & David Gerard: Wine may be well past it’s 1.0 release, but there are still many issues with running complex Windows software. Adobe CS4, for example, runs only with a lot of tweaking and creaking. But 99% of the people will never need such complex software. And Linux is already there.

  5. 31 July 2009 at 7:51 PM

    If it breaks, it is difficult to fix. One has to be a geek.
    Windows errors can be resolved if you know how to use google.
    But again , there are so many variants of UNIX , if you search for common errors you get solutions for hundreds of Unix variants.
    People always over-estimate the value of what they are used to (Win) , and under-estimate what they could get by learning something wonderful(Linux).

  6. Brian
    10 August 2009 at 6:49 AM

    Well ‘Linux’ doesn’t lack anything because it isn’t a company or a commercial product, so its wrong to think of it in such terms. Linux has or doesn’t have any given thing on a per user basis, so there are as many answers to that question as there are users.

    Saying that Linux lacks a unified brand is assuming that Linux has some kind of goal that branding would advance. Its only goal is something that it already does quite well, be open.

    With that said, any other spoken goal isn’t the goal of ‘Linux’ but really the goal of the speaker. There are as many of those as there are people to advocate them. They each have different target markets, with different needs, and with different approaches to meeting those needs.

  7. Anon2
    10 August 2009 at 7:51 AM

    Actually, it does need a lot of work on the GUI. Many of the individual programs have sloppy and cumbersome UIs. This is definitely a requirement if it is to achieve widespread adoption. Which I guess is the goal by which we determine what it “lacks”.

    A CLI is *not* user friendly, despite what its proponents like to believe. It is not intuitive. It is indeed very straightforward, but not friendly. It just seems like it when you’ve been living on a Linux box for the past five years. I know hundreds of people who quake in terror the moment they see a black box on their screen with a blinking text cursor. *Those* are the users which we use to measure friendliness.

    It also lacks simplicity (probably what you called user-friendliness). You’re expected to get your hands dirty at least once, and a common mantra among Ubuntu users is to check the forum. It’s an excellent resource, but no one would ever honestly call that user-friendly. Yes, it’s simple enough in the most supported installs, but edge cases still cause problems to this day. As with every OS.

    Finally it lacks polish. All those thousands of shell scripts that people put together to automate and integrate common tasks are obvious enough hints to this. There is a lot of functionality, but the Unix mindset calls for all applications to do one thing and do it well. It’s good for developers, but bad for users. There’s a wide-open market for Linux middleware, but the developers that tend to gravitate towards Linux aren’t integration or UI experts.

    Saying that Linux lacks only an image is a disservice to the community, as there is still plenty left to do. I have no desire to see it stagnate as we contend amongst ourselves to find who is the One True Linux. Thanks anyway.

  8. 10 August 2009 at 8:38 AM

    @ Brian: When I say ‘it lacks an image’, I am talking about the obstacles it faces to complete popularity. A more popular Linux would be God-send: more developers, more support, more openness, even.

    @ Anon2: Going by your drift, I could easily find as many (if not more) problems with Windows or Mac OS X. Of course Linux lacks plenty of things, and no self-respecting OS would ever claim to be perfect in all regards. Additional to your list could be looks (though KDE 4.3 is remedying that), and integration with exotic hardware for which the manufacturers do not care to write drivers.
    The point, though, is that these things are corollary to mass popularity.

  9. BigusGeekus
    10 August 2009 at 2:17 PM

    Support for professionals: Autocad, Photoshop and other pro apps will make thousands of people and (more important) companies to switch to linux.
    Microsoft does not make money from individual users. They (we) just download windows from torrents. It makes money from corporate deals with companies that NEED to run windows, either they like it or not.
    …As for me, find me a good cad software for unix (alternatives to Autocad Civil 3D and Archicad) and I will immediately burn all my windows pcs. At the same time, I will start a crusade to convince all my fellow engineers accessible to me to switch to linux.

  10. 10 August 2009 at 2:33 PM

    @ BigusGeekus: Tried Archimedes?

    I’m studying to be an engineer myself, and I find Scilab and CATIA good replacement for MATLAB and AutoCAD in my domain. What I can’t find a good replacement for is NI Multisim.

    At the end, though, you’re right – Linux is still not for engineers. It’s for the average Joe that Linux is now good.

  11. BigusGeekus
    10 August 2009 at 4:29 PM

    The average Joe will download a pirate copy of windows and install it in their pc, without having to worry about wireless card support, ati incompatibility, sound problems, kernel panics, etc.
    At the end of the day, nobody gives a… damn about the average Joe. To make linux matter, it has to be supported by large corporations and state organizations.

  12. 10 August 2009 at 10:56 PM

    @ BigusGeekus: For large corporations and state organizations to support a new platform, it has to be worth their while. i) They may have some technical motives ii) They may be forced by market dynamics. In the second case, only a large base popularity can create those dynamics – or a paradigm changing innovation.
    I do not know which part of the world you live in, but in my part, people do use pirated Windows. My latest post [http://superphysics.awardspace.com/2009/08/09/linux-and-piracy/] (which came before your comments) is about exactly that. I cannot agree more. In the US, perhaps, it is less pervasive.

  13. BigusGeekus
    11 August 2009 at 12:52 AM

    I’m totally with you as well. In my part, only companies and state administration uses authentic software. Everyone else…
    So, in order to make someone except the average user be interested in Linux, there have to be applications that will be worth their time. But in order to have these applications, linux has first to gain support and popularity. Talk about vicious circle or what?!!!
    As an engineer with almost 10 years of experience, I can say that the scientific world has only to gain from a Linux turn of things.
    As for Archimedes, Qcad, Varicad, PythonCad, Medusa, etc., comparing them to Civil 3d or Archicad is like comparing Pacman to Halflife 2…

  14. 11 August 2009 at 1:41 PM

    @ BigusGeekus: LOL. In my part of the world, not even companies and state administration use authentic software if they can get away with it!
    It is indeed a vicious circle, one that (interestingly) only Microsoft can break, I think…

    You are right about quality of open source engineering tools. Even for myself, CATIA is proprietary, and SciLab massively backed.

  15. BigusGeekus
    12 August 2009 at 1:39 PM
  16. 13 August 2009 at 9:10 AM

    @ BigusGeekus: That is, of course, exactly right…

  17. Counter Terrorist
    3 November 2009 at 5:13 PM

    Another thing that I think Linux needs is an application like wine..just a little more….STABLE that will allow real time gaming and not gaming that lags and is sluggish. I linux can somehow bring that into play….we’d have the numbers!

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