24 things we'd change about Linux

8th Nov 2010 | 14:36

24 things we'd change about Linux

The Linux annoyances that really need sorting out

If you use Linux long enough, you'll soon discover a list of things you wished were different.

Here are 24 things that we wish were different.

What would you change? Share your thoughts in the comments.

1. Fix sound once and for all

ESD, aRts, OSS and ALSA are all old news: PulseAudio is where it's at, apparently, so why doesn't it work for so many people?

Sound should be a solved problem by now, but rather than focusing on making the majority of cases work, Linux's sound system policy appears to be about reaching 75% compatibility before focusing on corner-case features that a select few need, before tossing it away and starting a new sound system project.

2. No more infighting

Some people seem to get really angry if you use a distro they don't like. In fact, here at LXF Towers we get more letters from Ubuntu haters than any other group of reader!

As most people know, Ubuntu places only a teensy layer of polish over a default Gnome or KDE install, so we're not sure why people get so enraged about it. But we are sure that it doesn't help: as a community we spend too much time telling people what they should use, and not enough time letting them actually exercise the choice that we promised them in the first place.

3. Guaranteed GUI fallback

Do you remember the old days of installing Linux, when you'd boot from a CD only to see the message in the installer, "can't find CD drive?"

The modern equivalent of that is the graphical installer that, upon reboot, leaves you at a command prompt – we still get emails from people who have just this problem or, worse, never even got to the graphical screen in the first place.

Isn't it about time that failsafe X actually meant it was failsafe? That you'd get a graphical desktop no matter what graphics card you had?

4. Andrew says...

I know choice is good, but the whole point of a package manager is to simplify things for the user. Lets simplify it even more by standardising on one package format and making Linux apps truly Linux-wide.

5. Backwards compatibility dependencies

If you have Glibc 2.11.1 and want to upgrade to 2.11.2 for some reason, it shouldn't break all the apps you have installed.

Did you know that there are applications for Windows 95 using pre-release versions of DirectX 1.0 that still run on Windows 7 using DirectX 11? I don't think we need to go that far, but I think it's time to do away with petty dependency problems.

6. Get Mac compatibility for games

Wine lets people run Windows software on Linux, and it's a huge project. Mac OS X, on the other hand, already uses many open APIs such as OpenGL and OpenAL, so I reckon with a little work we could make it almost no work for developers to port games to Linux from OS X.

7. A single name for the wastebasket

In the UK English translation of Gnome, it's called either Rubbish Bin, Wastebasket, Deleted Items and Trash depending on where you look, which is silly. Fix it!

8. Easier driver install

How do you install a Linux driver? The answer, for most people, is that you don't – you need to upgrade your whole kernel, which usually means changing your distribution. Dell's Dynamic Kernel Module Support (DKMS) has gone some way to fixing this, but we want to see it working everywhere.

9. Guaranteed sleep/hibernate

This feature either works out of the box (lucky you!) or works so badly that it can actually screw up your PC. Graham tried it out of curiosity just last week, and ended up having to reset his BIOS to get the networking functional again.

10. Remove Grub

If you've ever seen a dual-booting Mac, you'll have seen the smart, easy to use OS selection screen. So why is Grub so ugly? It's hardly a great advert for Linux when you see eight different Linux options when you boot up – four kernel versions as you've upgraded over the months, plus those same four with an additional "failsafe" option.

11. Make every task doable from the GUI

Next time you read our Answers section, take a note of how many solutions start with "open up a command line, then…" It is, frankly, depressing.

12. Rolling releases

If someone wants the latest release of Gnome, why should they have to wait six months for a new distro release? The answer is that they shouldn't, and users of rolling release distros such as Arch Linux have long recognised this. It's time for other distros to get the point!

13. Restore the desktop in KDE

Yes, you can have a desktop plasmoid that comes close to having a real desktop, but other than that this still seems like a major step backwards.

14. Improve the documentation

Man pages are great for reference, but the fact that they are there for reference as opposed to reading means they rarely have examples, they group irrelevant options with important ones, and often do little more than scare people away. If someone wants to start a project dedicated to making useful man pages, let me know!

15. Replace Gimp

Gimp is great… if you're looking for an example of bad UI design. To be fair, Photoshop is hardly a UI gem either, so we can't lay all the blame on Gimp, but if there's one Linux app crying out to have its user interface burned with fire it's Gimp.

16. Replace OpenOffice.org

This isn't about UI, it's about speed. If OOo were twice as efficient, it would still be a slow, resource-eating monster. Sometimes I think the only reason OOo is such a success is because it's equally poor on KDE and Gnome.

17. Mike says...

The current Unixstyle filesystem layout is an archaic mess. It's silly that, when you install a program, it's exploded into loads of different directories all over your filesystem. Apps should be standalone, like in RISC OS, Mac OS X and many other desktop OSes. Gobo Linux has the right idea.

18. Graham says...

Simplicity is best. For that reason, I think we should have a single, unified desktop, just like Windows and Mac OS X. Gnome, KDE and the rest are free to continue, but their resources should be pooled into a united front that becomes the official face of the Linux desktop.

19. Less screen clutter

When Ubuntu connects to a Wi-Fi network, it feels the need to pop up a box in the top-right corner telling me so. Every single time. Whenever I plug in a USB stick, it feels the need to open a new Nautilus window to show me its contents. How about you keep out of my way and let me decide how I use my computer?

20. Better organised settings

KDE's ever-growing control centre is a sprawling mess, but I'd rather have that than Gnome's peculiar split between Administration and Preferences where you end up having to hunt through various options trying to find what you want to change – until you usually decide that the option isn't there and needs to be tweaked in GConf directly.

21. Kill off dotfiles

dotfiles

Dotfiles (files that begin with a full stop so they are hidden), have been allowed to run rampant over a user's filesystem, which makes it hard to back up settings easily. It's time either to switch to a Windows-like registry (with GConf being a good start), or to group them together into a Settings directory that can be maintained easily.

22. Easier closed-source installs

I personally don't use proprietary software such as Nvidia drivers, Flash or MP3 codecs, but I know a lot of people who do, and I know even more who want to but can't figure it out.

Wouldn't it be nice if the first time your distro started up, it said something like "Listen, you can't play DVDs, play Flash games or listen to MP3 music because it's not enabled right now," then gave you the option to do it all with a single click? Yes, it would. Not for me, and maybe not even for you, but undoubtedly for thousands of other users around the world.

23. Standardise use of sudo

Annoying as the divide between KDE and Gnome is, it's nothing compared to something far more simple: root privileges. Some distros use sudo, others use su, and still others use both.

Which is right? I don't care. But I don't see why we need to have a choice about it: make sudo and su work, regardless of the distro, and the problem goes away.

24. No more open core

Put simply, open core means that the basic part of some software is open source, community-supported and all that good stuff. But an increasing number of businesses are looking to cash in on open source by making closed-source software that sits on top, which you pay for.

MySQL, for example, has an open database core, but if you want the enterprise build with more features, you have to buy it.

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First published in Linux Format Issue 137

Liked this? Then check out 10 best Linux distros for 2010

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