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December 19, 2008

The problem with Linux

On the surface, Linux should be a huge winner, and in many respects it is. Hey, what more can one want than a free operating system with mostly free software that runs on just about anything? I've been using Linux for many years for just that reason. Free. No hassles with activation, copy protection, and other pesky schemes meant to keep pirates away yet only inconveniencing customers.

So why hasn't Linux taken over? Because it's too complex. Sure, there are distributions that install simply and easily, but you can also spend hours trying to get one little thing to work right. Linux is a giant patchwork of code from all over the world. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that almost all Linux developers think Linux is so simple that absolutely everyone should be able to perform arcane steps and procedures.

Linux suffers from the expert syndrome. The expert syndrome is what makes academics speak in nearly incomprehensible language. It makes them look and sound important and, in their minds, is a reflection of their superior intellect and knowledge. Coders, likewise, revel in acting as if their most complex systems were child's play and anyone who does not master it must be an idiot. Some of the instructions for Linux are so complex and incomplete as to make it impossible for anyone who does not already know the systems to install things or make them work.

In all my time of working with Linux I've found perhaps a handful of truly useful tutorials and instructions. Sadly, this pits an incredibly productive global community of Linux coders and developers squarely at odds with the rest of humanity who can no more compile a kernel than split an atom. The rest of humanity also does not appreciate being talked down to when it comes to doing simple things like properly extracting a file, making a wireless connection work, or numerous other things that should be simple and self-explanatory but, in Linux, are not.

Unfortunately, I do not see a solution to this problem. You either have tightly controlled empires like Microsoft or Apple where things are centrally controlled and packaged, or you have loosely knit global communities of techies with all their human brilliance and flaws. So things will likely continue the way they have for decades, with Linux being both a a terrific solution but also one that can be endlessly frustrating.

Posted by conradb212 at December 19, 2008 04:32 PM

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