technology and zen of life

“A heisenbug (named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) is a computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when an attempt is made to study it.”

Linux on the Desktop still unpolished

This week, I installed Linux Mint for my girlfriend after her Windows installation crashed. The idea was to temporarily use Linux until the new (and bigger) harddrive that we ordered would arrive. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, but has some additions like codecs installed by default.

Installation went smooth. After the installation, she could easily access the NTFS data partition (modern Linux distributions use NTFS-3G for read/write access) and the computer booted up much faster than with Windows XP.

But she encountered a few problems:

  • Openoffice Calc sometimes showed a very high CPU usage when selecting multiple cells, rendering Calc very slow and unusable. After some Googling, I found that it is in the Ubuntu bug database, bug number 568892. But the reactions of the developers do not show much interest. I replaced it with the less-featured Gnumeric.
  • Many websites, including Gmail, suffer from bad font handling and anti-aliasing. In fact, most websites are a pain to the eyes. I tried Firefox, Epiphany, Arora, Konqueror, Chromium, and another browser which name I forgot, and numerous font settings (including Microsoft fonts), but nothing helped. [ Addition: The Ubuntu team works on a better font. ]
  • When switching from Gnome to KDE, the KDE menu did not show a “shutdown” option because the Gnome and KDE login managers, also called display managers (gdm and kdm) are not compatible with each other. Only one of the desktop environments can show a shutdown option. When you want to shutdown your computer in KDE, use the kdm. Same for Gnome and gdm. Funny thing is that five years ago, someone posted a solution for this, but still the problem is in the normal software repositories.

I use Linux on some servers for years. It’s great software if you want to have control, stability, speed, easy remote access, easy software installation and so on for your server. But Linux on the desktop has always been somewhat of another story, and although much improvement has been made, I believe that Windows (XP of 7, never Vista) with Office 2003 or Office 2010 (skip 2007, it’s kinda beta of 2010) is still unbeatable for desktop computing. Some Apple users wouldn’t agree, though.

About Evert Mouw

Interested in kinda everything, studied political science, now studying medical informatics. MCSE, Linux enthousiast, and believing that technology is the path to enlightenment 😉 Best RTS game ever is Warhammer Soulstorm (IMHO). Other hobbies include hiking, kayaking, reading and when I have time, trying to have an ant colony in an artificial nest (formicarium).

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2 Responses

  1. Evert Mouw says:

    Hi Xavier,

    Thanks for commenting.
    Point 2: “Chrome” is called “Chromium” in Linux (it’s the name for the open source build). Font rendering in Chromium is better than in other browsers in Linux Mint, but still less great than font rendering in the Windows / Mac world.
    Point 3: Sure it does complicate things that so many DEs exits for Linux (including many applications targeted towards some specific DE). Which makes interoperability between DEs even more important, something which clearly is still not up to modern standards.

    I like Linux a lot, I really do, so I hope that it will grow to be as good as it currently is for servers.

    Cheers, Evert

    Edit/PS: I saw your website, and applaud your efford to promote Linux tablet computing. I don’t like the iPad, Apple should not do such fascist content and application restriction.

  2. Xavier Sythe says:

    As a Linux Mint user, two of your three points are invalid.

    Point 1: Hadn’t noticed, I don’t use Calc.
    Point 2: I use Chrome, fonts looks GREAT!
    Point 3: Don’t install two DEs, it complicates things.


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