I've been keeping an eye on Linux Mint activity, and I might download it soon. I'd try it sooner, but my DSL connection is really slow and it takes like 15 hours to download.... But here are my thoughts on the state of Linux. You guys are obviously interested in raising the bar on Linux desktop quality, and you've already solved a lot of complaints I initially had about Ubuntu. But I was curious to get your thoughts on the feasibility of a few ideas I've had for what would constitute the ideal Linux desktop distro. Linux on the server is already the gold standard, but Linux on the desktop could still do with some big improvements, in my opinion.
I used Linux exclusively between 2002 and 2006. I used it because I was sick of the terrible instability of Windows 98, and I didn't want to pay for Windows 2000 or XP. However I was shocked at how poor the performance of Linux was compared to XP. I was using an old 300 MHz / 128MB RAM computer that could easily run Windows with MS Office with hardly any delay. But Linux was unbelievably slow to boot, to login, to launch programs, to install, to configure. Windows simply ran circles around Linux. But I lived with it, because I was sick of Microsoft's high prices. I occasionally tried lightweight window managers instead of KDE and Gnome, but I was always irritated with the lack of features. I also strongly believe that desktop Linux should be entirely configurable using a GUI control panel. There is nothing worse than requiring documentation to set up a network interface when it's not possible to get online to get the documentation. The command line and text config files are an excellent resource, but they shouldn't be the only way. Unfortunately, though, YaST and Mandriva Control Center are slow, buggy, unstable, and often missing important tools. I finally gave up on Linux in late 2006 when I got a new laptop with Windows XP already installed. My WiFI card and modem were not supported in Linux or required ridiculous amounts of effort to configure, and in Windows XP they just worked. Windows XP is **FAR** from perfect, but it's currently the most functional, in my opinion. But now, Vista is here, and as far as I can tell, it's a bloated, restricted, un-fair monster. So we need a new, good alternative before too long, when Vista really starts taking over the computing landscape.
Here are some features that would really make up THE ideal Linux desktop, in my opinion:
1. Make it work on computers with 64 MB RAM. From my personal experience, both in poor countries and the United States, the majority of individuals and companies and schools are still stuck with computers with less than 256 MB of RAM, all the way down the 64 MB.
2. Comprehensive graphical control panel, written in a fast programming language and not written with Gnome or KDE dependencies. Most distros have a few limited config tools, but most of them are based on Gnome or KDE. That makes them unbearably slow to load on slow computers running a lightweight desktop. Maybe it would be good to write this in a web language and make it configurable via a web browser. Functions that should be configurable without the command line or a text editor include:
- Wired network devices
Wireless network devices
USB network devices
Internet Connection sharing
Remote Samba Share mounts (so that programs without Gnome or KDE file dialogs and also command line can access remote Samba shares via - /media/remote-system-name/folder-name
Current samba shares on local machine.
Common network Login with roaming profiles and Windows network login / authentication
System language and keyboard language.
Full system backup / incremental backups to tape, DVD, or network host.
Time and Date and Internet Time sync
Printers and Printer Sharing
Scanners and Scanner sharing
Fax send/receive (yes businesses still depend on fax)
Offline network files, with Sync when user comes back online
Packages / Programs
Default Programs / protocol handlers
System restore states
Mouse speed and orientation
Power control / speedstep / ACPI / APM / hibernate control
Xorg configurator, allowing full control of monitor and resolution and switch between VESA / Xorg drivers or proprietary drivers, and also Multiple monitor support
Sound Card config / switcher
Scheduled Tasks / Cron
Services / daemons control
3. Write desktop-neutral systray applets that conform to the common standards (to work with XFCE or IceWM) to include common functionality when the user is using a lightweight desktop. These same applets would also work in Gnome and KDE, for consistency. These applets should also tie into the above mentioned GUI control panel. Functions would include
- keyboard language
network / WiFI monitor
calendar / tasks
resolution / monitor switching
power control / laptop battery indicator
4. Offer the distro in various flavors: Gnome, KDE, Xfce, and a super-lightweight desktop like IceWM that is actually functional and includes all the features people expect. The above mentioned systray applets would do the trick, I think. Also offer a totally stripped down version that is easily customizable.
5. Open/Save and Print dialogs that override the Gnome and KDE dialogs, written in a desktop-neutral language that also works well with lightweight desktops. These would enable open/save to network resources, access to network printers and the properties and options of those printers. These would of course integrate with the network and printer config tools in the above mentioned GUI control panel.
6. A good desktop-neutral file manager, integrated with the GUI control panel tools where necessary. Would include search capabilities.
7. Ability to easily create a personalized live CD or DVD of the running system, similar to mklivecd for Mandriva. Don't bother the user to deal with modules and chroot and config files and scripts. Just create a simple option to create a LiveCD or LiveDVD of the user's currently installed system, with all his programs and settings that he has currently configured. Also create an option to remove usernames and personal data or system settings, so that the Live CD can be easily distributed to others.
8. Make all media formats just work out of the box, both streaming internet content and local files.
9. Make it possible to download programs on a different computer, and then install locally off of a CD or flash drive. Many people don't have broadband internet, but they do have access to it at libraries, schools, work, friends, etc. Currently, with complex package managers like apt-get, each program has a million dependencies. So if I need to download programX at a friends house, I would have to manually dig through the FTP site and download programX, libprogramX, lib2programX, libcompat1, libcompat2, libsomemultimedia, libsomeotherintegration, etc. This is a pain. It would be much better if programs were somehow self contained in their own folder, with all their dependencies. I think that the Klik system shows promise in this regard.
That's all for now! Sorry for the long message. Please don't take this as criticism or trolling or bashing, I genuinely want Linux to be a viable solution. I've tried to make Linux work for so many different people, and even tried to integrate it at my work, but it just doesn't make the cut yet, precisely for the reasons I already described. I think it is possible though.
Thanks a lot!