Linux has come a long way from when I first tried it about 10 years ago. Just not quite far enough, at least in certain respects. Call me a heretic, but I’m sticking with Windows for now (on my PC anyway — servers are another matter).
But here’s why I’m not switching to Linux just yet:
- Font rendering is average. I’m fairly picky about typography, but font rendering in Linux just isn’t as good as in Windows, especially the hinting. I know there’s various technical and legal reasons for this, but compare the weights and clarity of the ‘N’, ‘W’, ‘A’ and ‘e’ in the shot on the right — that bugs me. (For reference, I’m comparing Ubuntu 9.10 to Windows XP, and yes, I do have the MS web fonts installed.)
- The default UI is significantly slower than the XP’s UI. This is noticeable in system menus and dialogs, but you notice it even more in certain cross-platform apps such as Firefox (e.g., PageUp/PageDn in a reddit thread with lots of comments).
- Program UIs aren’t consistent, much less so than in the Windows world. I was pleasantly surprised at the consistency of Ubuntu’s built-in offerings, but as soon as you go beyond that, you’re in each-hacker-to-his-own-UI territory.
- Relatedly, programmer power is split between Gnome, KDE, Xfce, and whatever other desktop environments you care to name. Religious debates aside, it means quality open source hackerness is being split to make three (or more) okay environments rather than one really good one.
- Tools are often much less refined than their Windows counterparts (open source or otherwise). For instance, TortoiseSVN under Windows is really nice, but the equivalent on Linux is years behind. Skype under Windows is great, but the UI for Linux Skype is klunky.
- Some minor things. For example, loud PC speaker beeps everywhere, when your sin was merely pressing Down when you’re at the bottom of the file in gedit. Oh yes, and the first thing Ubuntu told me just after I’d installed their latest version was “there are 130MB of automatic updates ready”. Note to Ubuntu devs: check out bsdiff.
But I don’t want to be all moans and groans. Like I said, it’s come a long way, especially in the last few years. And I think the Ubuntu people have done a great job of packaging a decent, friendly OS that’s easy enough to use for The Average User. Here’s some really positive stuff about Ubuntu:
- The Ubuntu install was superb. Everything just worked, and that’s a huge change from even a few years ago. Even wireless networking just worked!
- Despite mentioning UI inconsistency between programs, I was impressed with how good most of the built-in apps were. Good work on that, Gnome and Ubuntu.
And to end on a software engineering (read: hackish) note, I’m going to make a crazy suggestion about improving fonts: I wonder if you could make Windows-rendered bitmap versions of (say) Verdana or Trebuchet MS and then use those in Linux?
24 April 2010 by Ben 12 comments