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Five Common Misconceptions About Linux
LockerGnome ^ | 20 June 2012 | Eddie Ringle

Posted on 06/21/2012 11:51:15 AM PDT by ShadowAce

The recent hubbub over Linus Torvalds’ comments towards Nvidia as well as Nvidia’s response to those comments have once again brought up intense debates between Linux users and the rest of the computing pack. Reading the comments on Engadget or The Verge for these news articles, I realized that the general public has some misconceptions about Linux and its ecosystem. I use Linux distributions every single day both on my phone and on the desktop. When I read such comments, I find it kind of funny, but also kind of sad that the Linux that I use so routinely and productively is getting this sort of rap. So here, now, are five misconceptions I think I see most commonly on the Internet regarding Linux and its ecosystem.

Misconception #1: Linux is an operating system

I just wanted to get this one out of the way really quick. Linux is not an operating system. Instead, it is a kernel. It sits in between the hardware and the actual operating system (Linux distributions, as they are called) to enable all the userspace software to run smoothly and correctly.

Misconception #2: Linux has terrible driver support

Five Common Misconceptions About LinuxThe whole news about Torvalds’ Nvidia comments I mentioned earlier stemmed a bunch of comments on driver support in Linux from a ton of people. Neglecting the fact that most of the commenters didn’t actually see the talk in which Linus made his remarks and thusly assumed he was just saying Nvidia’s driver support on Linux was awful, most of the comments were pretty misinformed in general.

In regards to Nvidia, its proprietary drivers are actually pretty superb as far as performance goes. This is one of the things Engadget and The Verge participators were griping about, and rebutting that AMD’s graphics drivers are terrible. The truth is, AMD’s Catalyst drivers (its proprietary set) are also excellent and wonderful and masterful and all that. Its open source driver, dubbed “radeon” in the Linux kernel, works pretty well too, albeit with some 3D performance issues.

Apart from graphics, I’ve never had any real problem with other drivers. LockerGnome writer Ryan Pierson talked with me earlier and make the comment that he had struggles with a wireless card in one of his old notebook computers a few years ago. To be honest, those are edge cases, especially in this day and age. Wireless cards are fairly well supported (by the manufacturers, even) on Linux, especially if you have one of the mainstream brands (Broadcom, Intel, etc.), which you most likely are to have. As such, I can only assume that any driver issues that one person might encounter is either: a] user error, or b] a rare edge case, which means you shouldn’t go spouting off on a technology site to complain that Linux has terrible driver support if you can’t get your collection of silicon to work correctly.

I should note, however, that notebooks with Nvidia Optimus are a problem area — one that Linus was specifically targeting when he made his remarks. The issue with Optimus is that Nvidia has refused to support it on Linux in its proprietary driver, and it offers no support to the open source alternative, Nouveau, whose team is forced to reverse-engineer Nvidia cards in order to write the drivers. This lack of support on Linux can cause a variety of problems, from both GPUs (the integrated GPU as well as the Nvidia GPU) to run at the same time and waste battery life, to the worst case scenario of your laptop booting to a black screen of death, so to speak. This isn’t Linux’s fault, though, it’s Nvidia’s. The Linux community has been asking Nvidia to merely release the specifications behind its hardware so that the open source community at least has a good shot at writing working drivers. AMD has done this with its Radeon graphics line, even going so far as to committing employees to assist with the development of the open source driver. One last note if you’re reading this and you are affected by the Optimus issue on Linux: Try giving the Bumblebee project a look.

Misconception #3: There isn’t any decent software available for Linux

I have had this discussion with the other LockerGnome writers plenty of times, and we usually come to agree that the software available on Linux is definitely usable save for a few specific workflows. If you need a photo editor, use the GIMP or another alternative. If you want an office suite, there’s LibreOffice or you could even use Google Docs online. Linux has games, browsers, video editors, vector image editors, screencasters, instant messaging and IRC clients, development tools (oh boy, the development tools!), and so much more to offer if you’re simply willing to look around.

As I mentioned, there are a few areas where software on Linux can use some work. LockerGnome’s Ryan Pierson, in particular, wishes the video editing solutions on Linux were more competitive to the Windows and OS X market. Like I said, they exist, but they’re no Sony Vegas or Adobe Premier. When will the situation get better? It’ll have to wait for either: a] the developers of the open source alternatives to get more free time on their hands (unlikely) or b] for the commercial developers to pay more attention to Linux.

When will this attention arrive? I personally think the arrival of Valve’s Steam platform, Valve’s collection of games running on the Source engine, as well as Unity’s newly baked Linux support, will start the ball rolling. More games on Linux means gamers will start to see the platform as a useful, free alternative to Windows. As the desktop Linux market share increases as a result, more companies will consider developing ports of their software for Linux. It’s a snowball effect that I hope happens soon.

Misconception #4: Linux has a small market share

This was a fun one to read about on Engadget. Apparently, Linus’ “school project” that is Linux has failed to gain any market share for all the computers in the world whatsoever, and he should just give up and call it quits. What the ill-informed do not understand is that, quite frankly, Linux dominates computers everywhere. More than 90% of the world’s Top 500 supercomputers run a Linux-based operating system. Over half of all mobile smartphone devices now run Android, which is built on top of the Linux kernel. In addition, more than 60% of Web servers are running on a Linux distribution.

Only in the desktop space has Linux yet to leave its mark. Like I mentioned in the previous section, I expect the arrival of Steam, Source, and other gaming platforms to help boost Linux’s desktop market share considerably. Let’s hope so, anyway.

Misconception #5: Linux is only for developers and computer “experts” (aka Linux distributions are too hard to use)

This one is kind of silly. Granted, I am a developer and have been using Linux for many, many years now (since I was ten years old, at least), but the ease of use of Linux distributions has improved drastically over the years. Ubuntu, specifically, has helped make desktop Linux usable enough for ordinary human beings, as per its motto. Like I said, the software is there, so all it takes is getting used to a slightly different desktop environment when switching from OS X or Windows. I dual boot Windows and Debian here, and I hardly ever touch Windows anymore; Linux distributions have come far enough to be my daily driver from here on out.

I think Linux distributions can be intimidating and scary. I get it, though; new and different things naturally repel most of us (I’m a certified creature of habit, I’ll have you know). Many people shrug Linux off as difficult to use because they haven’t spent the time with it that it really deserves. Spend a couple of days trying to get your workflow up and running on a Linux distribution and see how you like it. Perhaps then you’ll gain a different perspective.

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To: Michael Barnes

> What model and is it network attached or capable of being networked?
Model hp1606dn
It is network attached.

41 posted on 06/21/2012 1:12:01 PM PDT by BuffaloJack (End the racist, anti-capitalist Obama War On Freedom.)
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To: chrisser

With that post, you nailed the spirit of my position on this.

I also notice something we have somewhat in common: we dealt with making computers work in a corporate environment. We perceive computers primarily as tools and something we don’t have to overcomplicate or deal with when we “punch out”.

I remember when I had to become a memory expert (remember dos “himem”?) just to get Aces Over the Pacific to run in dos mode on my Windows 3.1 machine. I’m burned out on messing with my computer. I had to replace a cooling fan on my cpu last year and that was hassle enough. I used to build all my computers from scratch. Now, when a computer acts up I just go to costco and drop another $299 and bring one home. Heck, I even use the motherboard video and audio.

I also stuck with beta for way too long. I sold video and knew it was much better than VHS. Big frickin’ deal. When I made the switch to VHS my life actually got a lot simpler. :-)

I live the subtitle to Dr. Strangelove: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. Or, in modern vernacular, I took the blue pill or drank the coolaid - and it was goooooood.

42 posted on 06/21/2012 1:15:35 PM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: Westbrook

Your post proves number five. Every person I know would read that and say, “What? What is that guy talking about? Wanna head out for lunch?”

Or something like that. ;-)

To be fair to the author, I’m replacing the word “expert” with “hobbyist”. I went to a computer fair in Kent Washington back around 1997 with my nephew and before we went in I told him, “soak this up because it is like going to an auto fair before the introduction of the model T. Eventually this will go away as the computer becomes a commodity like the toaster.” It did and they have.

Most people don’t want to mess with it and your post talks over the heads of even many computer hobbyists that only do windows or Mac.

43 posted on 06/21/2012 1:24:10 PM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: bsdsan
Fedora 16 here.

I banned windows from the house 10 years ago. Amusingly, a substantial part of my livelihood is based on my expertise in the windows server platform. It's a dirty job, someone has to do it.

44 posted on 06/21/2012 1:25:54 PM PDT by no-s (when democracy is displaced by tyranny, the armed citizen still gets to vote)
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To: BuffaloJack
Model hp1606dn It is network attached.

45 posted on 06/21/2012 1:40:40 PM PDT by cynwoody
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To: ShadowAce

The Linux supervillain.

46 posted on 06/21/2012 1:49:53 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: cuban leaf
  I have a sh**load of purchased software on my windows boxes. How do I run it in Lynux?

  I started running my old Windows computers on Fedora with the use of Virtual Box (free software). I even have a very old DOS program that I continue to use.

Fedora Linux
So you don't have to completely abandon Windows to get started with Linux.
47 posted on 06/21/2012 1:50:45 PM PDT by Maurice Tift (You can't stop the signal, Mal. You can never stop the signal.)
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To: cuban leaf

Yeah, actually having to support machines that serve a variety of users somewhat alters your perspective. Plus having to take into account the complete cost of a machine/os/device and not just it’s initial purchase price.

But that’s why we get the big bucks.

(Made myself laugh there with that last line)

48 posted on 06/21/2012 1:54:52 PM PDT by chrisser (Starve the Monkeys!)
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To: Maurice Tift

—So you don’t have to completely abandon Windows to get started with Linux.—

I agree, but you have to have a compelling reason to bother. Few of us do.

Again, I tried ubuntu and also have no love of Windows, but I have a better understanding of “the masses” than I used to. And as computers become more and more of a “commodity” that does what it does pretty reliably, few are going to feel the need to attempt to swim upstream. And that is how most people perceive it, especially those who have actually tried it.

49 posted on 06/21/2012 2:03:25 PM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: Bobalu
I shall be intredasted to hear how all that goes.
50 posted on 06/21/2012 3:17:44 PM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: cuban leaf

Sorry, distro is short for distribution. There are many distributions of Linux. You tried Ubuntu. I use PCLinuxOS. Others are Linux Mint, Fedora, CentOS, etc. They are all unique in how they look and what programs come pre-installed with the download. The beauty is they are all free, and with the LiveCD and LiveUSB options, they are very easy to test on your computer without having to install them first.

51 posted on 06/21/2012 3:20:35 PM PDT by kevao
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To: cuban leaf
I have a sh**load of purchased software on my windows boxes. How do I run it in Lynux?

In virtual machines, which is actually not a bad thing to be doing anyway. I run a lot of Windows programs in VM's on Windows!

52 posted on 06/21/2012 3:52:51 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: Dan Nunn
I feel sorry for recommending it to my coworker who, every time I'm in town and visit him, has figured out how to put 3 shortcuts to his contact list on the tray, delete his Phone shortcut, and have 4 weather widgets on his homescreen for Mountain View, CA. Not to mention about 30 new voicemails with no idea how to check them. Someday, I tell him, he'll have an upgrade and can get a smartphone designed for ordinary users.

What??!! Does your friend have four thumbs and no brain? I've never had any problems like that with my Droid and it's my first smartphone. I install programs, and add and delete stuff from the desktop views all the time.

53 posted on 06/21/2012 4:01:33 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: cuban leaf
I have a sh**load of purchased software on my windows boxes. How do I run it in Lynux?

The best way is to run your favorite flavor of linux and use virtualbox to run M$. You will need to install windoze in virtual box. I don't use any M$ products so I don't know how much RAM you will need. I run Mac OS X Lion with PC-BSD in a virtualbox session. I have 8 GB on my laptop and 16 GB on my server and I give PC-BSD 2 GB in 60 GB disk slice.

The most compelling reason to virtualize is that WHEN your MS installation screws up, you can delete it and start over.


54 posted on 06/21/2012 4:18:42 PM PDT by grwcfl537 (Sed libera nos a malo.)
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To: Bobalu

Just saw this -please post a R-PI thread with your impressions!

55 posted on 06/21/2012 5:45:01 PM PDT by bigbob
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To: bigbob


56 posted on 06/21/2012 9:31:14 PM PDT by publius911 (Formerly Publius 6961, formerly jennsdad)
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To: cuban leaf; chrisser
We perceive computers primarily as tools...

See, I don't think you do--or most people for that matter. I'm not blaming you. It's a matter of definition, I think.

Tools require some form of (at least) rudimentary training in order to operate properly. yet we (as a society) think if we just plug in a computer, or sit some kid down in front of it, all our problems will be solved. Sitting someone down in the control cabin of a construction crane will virtually guarantee destruction of some sort. The same goes for computers.

Insisting that all OSes and computers need to run/look like Windows because that is what "everyone" is used to is not only wrong-headed, but can be dangerous. It leads to stagnation--not only in computer/software design, but also in our ability to think and remain in control of these tools that we use all the time.

What I think would really be helpful, at least from a desktop perspective, is for the whole Linux desktop community to agree on a single standard desktop, and the closer to Windows look and feel the better.

This is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Limiting a tool of this power and complexity to one interface is like saying that a tablesaw should only be able to cut pine 2x4s at 90-degree angles. What's the point?

The truly great thing about Linux is the choice that it offers. Not only the choice of not giving your money to a liberal corporation like MS, but also of usability. Desktop choices like Gnome, KDE, LXDE, and XFCE (to name but a few), kernel choices and whether you really want to upgrade or not--this is what we're really about. We're not really trying to to get rid of MS, but thinking that we should imitate them is short-sighted to say the least.

If you don't want to invest the time and effort needed to learn about the tool sitting on the desk in front of you, that is also your prerogative. However, don't complain that it's too difficult when you don't really want to learn how to properly operate it.

Windows is like a base-model automatic (to use an analogy from you), with its hood welded shut and no real controls inside. Other OSes provide more functionality, but you have to learn to use it. More freedom does require more learning.

57 posted on 06/22/2012 4:34:04 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

—See, I don’t think you do—or most people for that matter. I’m not blaming you. It’s a matter of definition, I think.—

Actually, I’ve been using Visio since before it was a microsoft product. And I hated the latest version of office (as everyone did) but embraced it because I knew it would be the new standard in my office. I soon learned to love it and became the “office guru” at my workplace. I have also taught classes in Microsoft outlook as well as many mainframe Y2K remediation tools. I also worked at Compuware as a Sales Engineer. What this means is that I combined my sales background with my IT background to work with salespeople to answer technical questions, perform training at client sites, install the product on mainframe systems, etc. I’ve programmed in Assembler, Cobol, Dyl280 and 260, Powerbuilder, Visual Basic, C++, C#, Fortran and am currently using Visual Studio and Microsoft’s SQL studio to produce my system’s documentation.

I see all computers and computer software as tools. I use them as tools. I know how they work at least enough to do my job well. The problem is that if you are in a world dominated by Microsoft and Mac, and there is no compelling reason to be “different than everyone else”, it is not worth bothering with something different.

I sold a Beta portable VCR and Camera to a doctor back around 1980 to a doctor. A little over a month later he wanted to return it for VHS. The reason? The medical community had a huge library of material he needed but it was all in VHS. Sure, Beta was better, but his VCR was a tool and he needed to use it as such. It would not do what he needed it to do.

To apply that to Linux, I am no fan of Microsoft (just as I hated VHS), but I have become a power user of their office suite and have trained others in it. I use it as a tool in my job on a daily basis. I’ve used open office (and I am sure there are others). It is a reasonable faximile, but other than to save a few bucks (it’s free), what would my motivation be to learn it? There are only so many hours in the day and I really have to budget my time. Why would I spend all that time learning a product that is not fully compatible with everything those I work with, and I, use to perform our jobs?

There has to be a compelling reason to move from the “standard” to something else. For computer hobbyists I can see the seductive quality of using Linux. Heck, if you are running your own web server company I can see using it. But for the rest of us, there is no compelling reason. We only see our computers as tools and we already know how to use the tool we are using. We get work done. The tool works very well.

Could Linux be better than Windows? Sure. Beta was a lot better than VHS. I have learned to choose my battles. That is why I threw away my ubuntu disc and went back to practicing my bass.

58 posted on 06/22/2012 4:49:17 AM PDT by cuban leaf (Were doomed! Details at eleven.)
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To: ShadowAce
I'm not suggesting forcibly limiting Linux. I'm suggesting that an operating system that has many popular desktop options, each different in their own way, might be better served having one (additional) common offering that is tailored to users migrating from the most widespread existing competitor.

Your point is exactly mine - in order to migrate to Linux there is extensive training required. My point is that, right now, for the vast majority of users on desktops in a corporate environment, that training, which has a significant cost, has zero benefit. Users don't want, don't need, and likely won't use the fredom/complexity/choice of Linux. It's overkill, and then some. The OS is a means to an end - acessing applications. If the OS (and I'm including the desktop here) gets in the way, then it is a detriment rather than an asset, regardless of it's inherent capabilities.

Linux could be a real gamechanger, given the separation between the kernel and the desktop environment. Instead, it becomes a liability.

If you dropped most people into a Formula 1 car, they probably wouldn't be able to start it (assuming they could even get in). You could argue that the F1 car controls are better designed, and better laid out, but frankly, it doesn't matter if you're out of milk and need to go two blocks to the grocery store. Could an F1 car be built that operated like a run-of-the-mill sedan? Yes. Would it compromise it's performance? Probably, but when the average owner isn't going to take it to the track, that compromise is worth the gain in usability.

The thing is, all things considered, it is relatively easy, under Linux, to make an F1 operate like a generic sedan because of the segregation between the kernel and the desktop. It should be considered another strength of Linux, rather than a weakness. And those users who actually need/want the freedom/choice/complexity can still acess it, and are most likely to be able to access it, or willing to be trained in order to reap the benefits.

And, frankly, I'm not sure stagnation in software design is a bad thing. All too often, interfaces are changed seemingly for change's sake with negligible benefit, but extensive training costs. To be honest, what I want from software designers is more stable code that performs well. As long as the interface has basic functionality that the users can understand, I don't care if it never changes. In fact, I'd prefer that it not change unless the change brings huge productivity gains - something I have yet to witness in my career.
59 posted on 06/22/2012 6:48:03 AM PDT by chrisser (Starve the Monkeys!)
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To: Still Thinking
What??!! Does your friend have four thumbs and no brain?

That's what most Linux users do (and I don't know if you are or are not one of them, just stating from experience): If a user can't figure something out, it's the user's fault, not the interface.

60 posted on 06/22/2012 7:51:35 AM PDT by Dan Nunn (Support the NRA!)
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