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*Assorted gripes

Here are all the gripes that I have with hardware and software, incompetence and indifference.
Now keep in mind when reading this and feeling a black cloud of negativity decend uppon you:
I am a total positive thinking person, as a proverb stated perfectly:

Take it, change it or leave it.

Getting upset to just vent your anger is totally useless (except that it releaves some of the stress). The energy of anger is best put to work right at the problem, making sure that it never ever happens again. Or better put:

When you are sick and tired of getting sick and tired, you will change. (or it)

I always look for solutions, and when I critisize, I don't spoil for an argument or fight, but want the thing fixed and working.

Hopefully the list below will all be sad memories in some years, because it is all a thing of the past.

Windows XP

Anyone will tell me now that Windows XP is leagues ahead of every windows so far published and you are right. Stability in Windows 98 was not really something to mention, there was none. The NT based windows have done great progress there. And for the casual user of few programs, XP is as stable as a rock. But when you put a lot of load on it, use lots of that gigabytes of ram that you put in for specially that purpose, instead of crashing, producing blue screens, it just lags like crazy.
I could not find any special reason for this, it just seems to be scalability reasons. XP locks up sometimes, just freezing everything, except the mousepointer. Usualy, it is not even from high CPU load, because this would make sense, as any OS will become very unresponsive under extreme CPU load. But no, it just seems to be thinking about something. Sometimes the idea of "braindead" comes to mind and calling for the taskmanager helps in the same way as calling for the firedepartment and them showing up to extinguish the fire after all the house has burned down to a crisp.
Occasionally, pushing the hardware reset button is the only way to work again.
So far, I could never find out what was crashing or lagging, since it was not the harddisk and neither the CPU.
This is one reason I use Linux professionally, since I can always find out what is using system resources and shut it down if it is inconventient to eat away from my productivity.

virtual mem
Windows and virtual ram is a special story. As end of 2006, Windows just handles virtual mem very badly. For one instance, it cannot do without it. You can switch off virtual ram on any linux box if you like to. (it might make sense if you have 32 gigs of ram), but be sure that WIndows will come around and tell you that there is not enough virtual ram, even on such a high end machine as mentioned before.
Setting it to 0, like I did, produced not much, except that the OS soon enough activated it again and set it to 0 - 200 Mbytes.
Talk about contol.

Possessed system startup

I have considerable experience with Windows XP. Unfortunately, most people do not care much about their information and the fact that Windows is the most used OS all around the world is good enough a promise for quality for them. They don't mind reinstalling their systems on a regular basis and sometimes loosing all their "precious" data with it.  As a supporter and user, this forces me to use Windows XP too. I have seen quite a few broken XP installations in my time and in my experience it is just a matter of when it will fail and need to be reinstalled. If you are trouble free, you are probably either 1. a light user, that does not install ANY programs at all, 2. never use it at all.
Put weight on it, especially professional use with lots of programs installed, and you will get the funkiest problems, that I have never seen on any Linux system. The possessed system is one of these, the system starts up sometimes, or hangs othertimes or just basically goes blue screen, errrr,  I mean restart of course.  (MS follows every blue screen with a system restart, it looks much less embaracing). If a system hangs like this, the event log (the joke that Microsoft calles system logging) usualy tells you NOTHING about it.)
The sadest thing of all is the grotesque amount of time I have invested already trying to fix a broken XP system. Sad, because having to do it voodoo-informatics style, I am not closer to know a solution after all these hours. You can invest a immensive amount of time troubleshooting any OS, but I can guarantee you that on Linux, you learn something along the way and no minute is wasted since you figure out the whole proceedure. At every step, you are not left in the dark what is actually happening, since the system it 100% transparent and open.
I am very caucious of spending days and weeks troubelshooting Windows machines and admire the sysyphous work of people that professionally support Windows, knowing that they can never really know it really. I could not do it. As an engineer, voodoo is not a doable way for me to work, logically and systematically.

It's not that I am lazy or anything: I am just doing a project for my home server, installing software RAID on it. Software RAID is very stable and mature on linux and having lost too many pieces of data through the crappy quality harddisk that you can buy nowadays, I feel myself forced to do it. I am now facing some problems with GRUB, the Linux bootloader. Having spent an enourmous amount of hours, I will surely document the proceedure on this page here, so other people can find an easier way. Every hour I spend made me realize more how the thing works and made me more powerful and able. I cannot say much like this about Windows. We still don't have much clue about how Windows XP starts up exactly.

Gnome / KDE

One sad gripe and confusion to many new Linux users is the desktop duality KDE/Gnome. Each one of these systems tries to win you over and wants to be the one and everything. Unfortunately, so far (end of 2006) there is no way to just go with one, since you miss out on a lot of great tools.

I am basically a KDE user, but always toy around with Gnome from time to time and believe that Linux would do well to merge the two and combine efforts.
Now the reason why I like KDE more over Gnome is why it feels more intuitive to me. Now define intuitive to a Unix crack and a Windows professional and you come up with two totally different concepts.
It is true that "intuitive" depends largely on your operation system upbringing: While drive letters like in windows make sense to most non-pro users, some pro users snot about it and call it total garbage. "It doesn't scale, the letter does not say the least about what device it is and they are relative." I hear somebody say.
While the Linux/Unix way might be a little more complicated, it does make much more sense when you get into it.

Anyway, for somebody coming from Windows, like most do, KDE seems to make more sense somehow. The startmenu is replaced by the K, there is a central configuration repository and everything seems quite the Windows clone. I guess this is where the critisism for KDE comes in from the Gnome side, of trying to be too much like Windows. Well, friends, that is one of the reasons why Linux currently matters big time around the globe and is not some obscure OS that a very small base of users uses and for which to get drivers for hardware is a big time problem.

Now one gripe that I have with KDE is that it is lagging behind Gnome and that energy is wasted into doing "mediocre" projects like KOffice. In my oppinion, the team that does KOffice should join the Open-Office team and Open-Office would in turn get a lot further.
Now this will probably get me flames from the KOffice team, but lets be honest:
Q: Who is the biggest in the office market?
A: Microsoft Office

Q: Who is number two?
A: Open-Office.

Q: Is there an chance that KOffice will be used to the same close numbers as MS Office?
A: Nope, not a chance in hell.

Q: How about Open-Office?
A: Well, yeah, could be. More and more people are using it, it runs on all OSes, and has the chance to reach critical mass.

Now one gripe that I have with Gnome is, compared to KDE is that it is ugly. To me it looks like UI design from the beginning of the 90'ies, all in grey and the icons very simple and stiff, low color. KDE does a much better job in being "sylish", which can of course be argued about. Think Mac OS X, probably the only sylish and fashionable looking OS on the market today and you know what I mean.

Another thing talking about intuitiveness is configurability:
In Gnome, when doing things I many times get a strange sensation when I click right-mousebutton and get nothing. No context, nothing. Part of the intuitive way is, that one can use the context menu to find alternative routes to the target.

And in the same token: Gnome tries to be simplified, as the developers stated once "too many options can too confusing to an user" (not an literal quote). Now how many users are switching to Linux because Windows is too complicated and confusing to them? Not alot.
The reason why I use Linux is that I have more control over things, can configure things exactly the way I want them to be. You can't do that on Windows, since you don't own the OS really and lots things are just not properly documented.

Maybe the KDE control center can be confusing to some users, but I like all the options and possibilities for configuration. Gnome should at least enable an expert mode, where you can configure whatever you want.

I guess when you have been using Gnome for a long time, you will also find the way to work quite intuitive, since you know where everything is. But if you come from KDE or Windows, it can be totally annoying if you are unable to find some functionality. Trying to find a search box in a file requestor and not knowing that you just start typing in order for one to appear, can be enraging.
Well, this can be fixed: More documentation and pop up help would do great. But the elitist Unix attitude of RTFM (read the fucking manual) will bomb the concept of not trying to confuse users with too much functionality or details.

What about a "Are you new to gnome? Click here and learn the Gnome way to do things..."
That would certainly help and clear up a lot of ??? that a newbie Gnome user has.

Debian gripes

There are some highly annoying things that a user encounters while using Debian and while I have found no solutions myself on the web, I provided my own. I find it say when users get frustrated on a little detail and give up on the big affair then.

Right on top is:

kate:   cannot connect to X server

This happens when a user is logging into a session with his username and then becomes root and starts a program.
Maybe one person can explain me one day why root (as superuser over all) cannot access a X server of a normal user.
I am much in favour of security, but THIS does not make sense!

RedHat and SuSE does not suffer from this.

I have fixed this myself, see here for a solution


XOrg Xserver config tool

After spending now countless hours on the configuration of the Xserver xorg, I really wonder if xserver configuration has moved at all the recent years.
Granted, xorg does a lot of things by itself. Just erase the config and it is written automatically. But beware, if you need to change one option:
Endless works ensues and one can just go ahead and memorize all the options, you probably end up saving time.
Now what is wrong with this picture?
It is totally unaceptable that there are config tools for ANYTHING out there already, but not one for the xserver. How difficult it is to do?
The interesting thing:
RedHat and SuSE used to have these tools back in 2001 already and Ubuntu and Debian still don't have anything that lets you try out the configuration that you just made instead of starting the xserver and seeing it crash.
If I as a professional with years of linux experience cannot do this, how is a newbie going to do? Awefull, he/she is going to run for the hills.

Linux Partitioning


this document was created on:
21. Nov. 2006
updated on:
27. Nov. 2006