Skip to comments.Five Common Misconceptions About Linux
Posted on 06/21/2012 11:51:15 AM PDT by ShadowAce
The recent hubbub over Linus Torvalds comments towards Nvidia as well as Nvidias 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.
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.
The 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 didnt actually see the talk in which Linus made his remarks and thusly assumed he was just saying Nvidias 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 AMDs graphics drivers are terrible. The truth is, AMDs 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, Ive 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 shouldnt go spouting off on a technology site to complain that Linux has terrible driver support if you cant 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 isnt Linuxs fault, though, its Nvidias. 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 youre reading this and you are affected by the Optimus issue on Linux: Try giving the Bumblebee project a look.
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, theres 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 youre simply willing to look around.
As I mentioned, there are a few areas where software on Linux can use some work. LockerGnomes 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 theyre no Sony Vegas or Adobe Premier. When will the situation get better? Itll 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 Valves Steam platform, Valves collection of games running on the Source engine, as well as Unitys 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. Its a snowball effect that I hope happens soon.
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 worlds 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 Linuxs desktop market share considerably. Lets hope so, anyway.
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 (Im a certified creature of habit, Ill have you know). Many people shrug Linux off as difficult to use because they havent 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 youll gain a different perspective.
My Raspberry Pi is finally due to arrive on the UPS truck tomorrow! :-)
Already have the latest Debian image loaded on an SD and waiting. (2012-06-18-wheezy-beta)
I have a sh**load of purchased software on my windows boxes. How do I run it in Lynux?
And I've been waiting for the kids to write one. ;)
My days of writing drivers after reverse engineering hardware are over.
Hurry up with those drivers, kids... Sure, it's an edge case, but I need my Mozart!
The same way I do. :)
“kernel. It sits in between the hardware and the actual operating system “
Somebody obviously doesn’t know what an OS is and is trying to define Linux as something it is not.
But if Linux is not an operating system why would I put it between my operating system and my programs and then add Wine as another middle man.
I confess I tried ubuntu a few years ago and even used the Linux version of MS Office (open office). But one day it simply stopped working. I even uninstalled and reinstalled with no luck. It looked fine but you could not see or type anything in its word equivalent.
I finally got rid of it and ubuntu and got on with my life. My computer is like my toaster. I use it when I need it and then I forget it exists when I don’t.
Number 5 is real.
I just use winamp on my xp machine. Works great and no hassles waiting for the kids.
Nope. Linux is not Windows and it doesn't pretend to be.
It is easier to use and install than Windows is, but the process is different. What most people perceive as a difficult OS is really a learning curve they don't want to climb. Once that learning curve has been attempted, it just gets easier.
Different strokes for different folks.
I keep a copy of the latest Windoze system around so I can walk customers through their problems.
I'm less inclined to do that as time goes on.
I use Linux and frameworks built on top of Linux extensively in my company (which is powered by Amazon Web Services and their Amazon Linux distribution, built upon CentOS).
But it’s silly to think Linux will ever go anywhere on the desktop. That has been said for 15-20 years. I remember trying it in the late 90s back in the bad old days of Winmodems (well, they’re still here, but wifi and ethernet has replaced direct connections to the internet).
However, I do use a unix-based OS on 100% of my personal devices: OS X and iOS. And Apple has made it fantastic.
“Supporting Linux is important to NVIDIA, and we understand that there are people who are as passionate about Linux as an open source platform as we are passionate about delivering an awesome GPU experience. “
Classy response to Linus’ F bomb. Personally, I feel nvidia should just focus on Android, the linux ‘distro’ that actually succeeded.
Yes, there is a learning curve. But I found out it is not nearly as steep as people make it out to be.
Do what I did. Take an old computer and install a Linux distro on it. Most of these Linux distros work great on older hardware, btw. Then set aside a little time each day or each week to familiarize yourself with Linux. Check out a Linux book from your local library and work your way through it. When you get the basics down, try different distros. Until you find one you really like (mine is PCLinuxOS).
I hardly ever use my Windows computer anymore. And I certainly don’t miss Windows at all.
It's a pretty popular desktop.
Please read my previous comment through to the end.
Fedora 16 here.
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