It's not all roses

2007.04.28

Linux has been my OS of choice for nearly a decade now. I honestly hope that one day it can be used for nearly any computing task. That said, as of April 2007, it isn't always up to the job. Lest anyone accuse me of sugar-coating things, here are a few of the gaping gotcha's of Linux:

  • Some things are just not doable. For example, there is simply no decent PDF editor in Linux. Your only real option is to install VMWare, install Windows and purchase and install Adobe Acrobat Professional. Yes, pdfedit exists, yes, it does some things, but it is very much in the early stages of development. Want to add a hyperlink? Forget it.
  • There are no current choices for continuous voice dictation. IBM ported a version of ViaVoice back in 1998. It cannot be made to run on modern distributions and wasn't very good anyway. It may be possible to install earlier version of Dragon through wine/CrossOver office, but it is very buggy and can't integrate with the OS anyway.
  • Some hardware devices don't really work. BlackBerrys, Windows CE devices, some obscure digital cameras, cheap all-in-one printers. Often times, these things cannot be coaxed to work no matter how much time you sink in to it. When they do work a bit, they are unpredictable and not generally worth the time.
  • Commercial software in general. There are a few options and this may be slowly changing, but distributing closed binaries for multiple Linux distributions is hard, the user base is small, and generally averse to paying. Sad but true. If an Open Source solution doesn't exist for what you're trying to do, as a home user, you're pretty much S-O-L. Codeweaver's CrossOver Office is one way to get around this, but it only supports some apps and tends to be just buggy enough to make it less than ideal for any software that you really count on.
  • Unless you really like Quake, there aren't many good commercial games. Options like Cedega exists, but they are buggy and incomplete. However, if you're not a hard-core gamer, there are many fun Open Source games. Frozen Bubble, PySol, Armagetron, bzFlag, Nexuiz, Penguin Racer, Scorched 3D, Emilia Pinball and TrackBalls all spring to mind. Also, many indie games (commercial and otherwise) are released for Linux. All told, the Linux gaming scene is nearly on-par with the Mac gaming scene. Yeah, that isn't saying much.

This list isn't complete and isn't meant to scare people off. I love Linux and think that Feisty is a fantastic release and that Ubuntu may, given enough time, overcome most of these obstacles. However, one must be honest with potential new users.