Originally Published: Saturday, 25 December 1999 Author: Andy (three55ml)
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

What is Linux Missing?

With all of the hype in the media about Linux, you would think that by now it would be on every computer in the world. However, we all know, it's not. While the Linux community is growing rapidly, there are still a number of drawbacks that Windows (and other OS) users experience in the transition process....

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With all of the hype in the media about Linux, you would think that by now it would be on every computer in the world. However, we all know, it's not. While the Linux community is growing rapidly, there are still a number of drawbacks that Windows (and other OS) users experience in the transition process.

One drawback of Linux is the availability of software. While the avid Linux user has the knowledge to go out on the Internet to search for whatever type of software they desire, the average end-user does not. They expect to be able to go to the local computer store and find Linux programs on the shelves, just like any other OS such as Windows or Mac OS. While the number is Linux programs on the shelves is very slowly growing, it is not anywhere near the magnitude of Windows programs available. This creates the image that such programs are not available, despite the fact that such programs like StarOffice, AbiWord, and ApplixWare do exist. If Open Source applications such as AbiWord were packaged and sold on the shelves at cost of distribution, people would realize that software for Linux is available and of high-quality.

Even though there are numerous applications for Linux available, there really aren't that many of comparable quality and usability to their Windows counterparts in areas which the average user needs. For example, there is nothing for Linux that is comparable to something like Quicken for Windows, a popular financial application. While there are small applications being developed, there aren't any commercial applications developed that serve that purpose. Some Linux users seem to fear the commercialization of software, but in a sense, it is required for the further advancement and acceptance of Linux.

Another item which haunts many is the tweaking sometimes required to get a Linux system fully running. Setting up X can sometimes be a week-long process for newbies, giving them headaches about setting up monitor refresh rates and video card settings. The average user doesn't even know what chip-set their video card has, let alone the refresh rates of their monitor. While the level of setup required to get Linux fully running is decreasing with the latest releases from companies like Corel and Red Hat, some level of maintenance still remains to fully maintain a Linux system.

While sometimes the user has the knowledge required to successfully setup a piece of hardware, the drivers are often not available. Often, developers are left to hack away for weeks to come up with a driver that doesn't work as well as its commercially developed counterpart. While this is changing with companies like Creative Labs and nVidia developing drivers for their latest hardware, the support is not nearly at the level of Windows and Mac drivers. Once more companies start to officially support Linux, the task of setting up hardware will become a much less cumbersome process.

Along with the larger issues already discussed, there are numerous minuscule problems that, put bluntly, are annoying. One such item is printing. While Linux has full printer support, printing often takes an extremely long time due to the rendering process it must go through. Some printers crawl as slow as one page per minute. This all ties into the hardware manufacturers needing to offer better Linux support for their products. Another smaller-scale issue is fonts. While Linux has support for Type 1 fonts, among others, standards like TrueType actually offer a better solution. Type 1 fonts have problems scaling nicely, and they often come out pixelated. While TrueType font servers do exist, they are often difficult to integrate into X Windows and may require completely re-compiling the font server.

Another issue surrounding Linux is support. While individual companies like Red Hat and Corel support their own distributions, no single entity owns Linux and provides support. This creates the image to some users that Linux is totally unsupported, which is not entirely true.

Only once the problems discussed have been resolved will Linux be fully able to reach the average desktop user. Once it does, however, the computer industry as a whole is in for a revolution.

three55ml (Andy) is a writer/contributor for Tuxfiles.com, a Linux files and resource site. He is an avid Linux user of many years and continues to help expand the Linux community.





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