Dear Linux…

Dear Linux,
living with you has become hard.

To start with, I use a current ThinkPad and the latest Ubuntu Linux LTS.
Up to now, the things I have to do occasionally so I can do my daily work:
1) Restart network-manager after wakeup because WiFi looks like it works but it doesn’t
2) Kill unity-panel-service at least every ~1,5 day because it continuously eats system resources (I once catched it claiming 8 gigs of RAM)
3) After issuing a print job, open print queue GUI manually because otherwise the print job isn’t really started

Moreover, I am forced to run a beta-kernel, because, using the official kernel, standby after undocking suddenly got broken. And, since day one of using this system, there is the issue of laggy audio output which needs some seconds until audio is played and permanently blocks the whole application having sound output for several seconds.
As a side note: whilst running Windows 7 on the same machine, none of this issues is present.

Apart from that, I constantly face minor and major issues concerning the applications themselves, also interfering my daily work. For example when working on publications, I am forced to use up to four different tools, because a graphic tool doing sophisticated vector drawings, diagrams and graphs at one go simply doesn’t exist. Additional overhead is caused because there is no proper interoperability between those. And, still, every GUI framework seems to come up with its own philosphy how certain keystrokes and GUI elements should work, apart from the fact that there is still no really gobal clipboard.
The issues I have using this tools are well-known, documented and exist at least since I began using Linux for my daily work again several years ago. All of these applications didn’t make visible progress since then. What is more astonishing: some of them feel like there hasn’t been much change since my first contact with Linux roughly 17 years ago.

I know what some of you might think now. Please, don’t come up with „It’s obvious that you have such problems with distro X, you should use distro Y instead! Everything is better there!“
During the last years, I tried a number of different distributions, all promoted as „The one and only distribution to bring back stability, reliability and everything else you love!“. I tried a number of these distributions hoping that it would do its job better. But all of them fell short on their promise. Plus, the more atypical the distribution, the bigger the problem to find someone who can actually help to solve problems with it.

Summed up over the last years, I invested an absurd amount of businessdays to

  • clean install my system
  • fix issues to get my hardware work in the first place
  • fix issues that came up after package updates or distribution upgrade
  • search for help to all of the above
  • .

Nowadays, the diverse community platforms are full of problems and suggestions, but unfortunately, an immense ammount is on a level of esotheric methods or „solutions“ like „I did a clean install and my issue is gone now.“. These are things for which Linux users used to laugh at Windows users for years.

Don’t get me wrong, I like computers, I like to use them and I also like hacking and fiddling with configuration files to reach a certain goal. As a hobby or to realize sophisticated server functionalities. But concerning my system for daily work, I need a reliable system with flawless support for the internal hardware as well as periphery, and the ability that I can update the system to get new features and bug / security fixes without having to fear that functionality breaks. Again, this is what Windows users have been laughed at by Linux users for years.

Concerning my concrete issues in the introduction, after failing to unearth workable information out of the depths of community platforms, I lastly went the official way by filing bugs.
Most of them are open since months now, most of them did not gain any serious attention yet apart from complaining that I did something wrong when writing the bug report or not providing the right / enough information. In every case I provided this information, but none of the bugs has been solved yet or treated in a way that it helped me to fix the issues.

And sadly, even if I would succeed in all of this, there is still a big problem given by the abscence of productivity applications apart from web, mail, office and graphics.

I once had to cut some video material. So I went through the repositories and some PPAs out there to get a video editing tool. I tried three different ones, all being advertised as compatible with my system and being a top-notch thingie.
None of them succeeded in cutting the video correctly, one even did not start.
I ended up tinker with ffmpeg and cut the video blindly, hoping that the time data discovered using a second tool lead to the needed result. Is this the way things should be in 2016?

Providing a product also means that it needs servicing, maybe over a long period of time. For example, „Getting Things Done“ is my favourite methode of – well – getting things done.
This method became popular in ~2006, which means that most applications supporting this method also came up at that time.

Today, the only at least somehow working GTD tool for the Linux desktop is Getting Things GNOME. Sadly, it has some essential backdraws since it is still in some early stage of development (the version number states 0.3.1), but, even worse, it crashes now and then, letting an unpredictable amount of modifications to my data vanish. In fact, the last maintenance release was in 2013. But at least it works most of the time. All other tools I found during many search sessions weren’t even updated since the initial GTD hype, leaving them in an incompatible state since they aren’t hardly maintenanced to be up-to-date to newer Linux distribution versions, but still found in repositories. This lets me think that software repositories have a big amount of members who only exist on paper.

The thing is: I for sure understand that much of what is made possible in the Linux world is made by people in their freetime. But at close of day, I need to get my work done, and to succeed in this I am perfectly fine with spending money for a commercial product with the promise of maintenance over a long period of time – if only there were such products.

Moreover, I have the impression that the platform itself is abandoned by the industry slowly but surely. It is actually getting harder and harder to take part in business conference calls. Two wide-spread tools, Adobe Connect and Skype, lack fundamental support under Linux. To share my screen and benefit from all functionality of Adobe Connect, the „Adobe Connect Add-In“ is needed. There is no Linux version of it. Period.
The last really native version of Skype is heavily outdated and can’t be used for virtually anything except I want to communicate with other Linux users using the same version. For a more current version, the is the new „Skype for Linux“ which isn’t a native application anymore but just a wrapper for the web application. Apart from chats and audio calls there doesn’t seem to work much by now, altough there have been a big number of updates since first release. Oh, and it loves to crash, too.
And, to add one more: Citrix GoToMeeting doesn’t support Linux at all.
So, I have actually no possibility to take part in conference calls and share my screen using a tool which is available for Windows, macOS and Linux and I’m already forced to use an other OS here.

At this point, I am beyond the question of using open source software because it is for example better in terms of privacy or ideology. What I see is: I just want to use my computer as a tool to get my daily work done. And I see that the best I can actually get is a system that hinders me every single day, productive tools lacking innovation and the mere absence of commercial products to compensate lack of open source developers where it is necessary to pay a company for developing an maintaining a product for a specific use case. I tried to take part in the open source process and help the people by describing my problem and offer my help to further investigate and test stuff. But my offer of help wasn’t answered many times, leaving me in a desperate situation.

As it is, I think I won’t change anything in my setup. I have a system that somehow works for me, there is a bunch of issues but I somehow can work around them. I think I won’t give the n+1-th distribution a try, eventually determining that all of the above issues may be gone then but some others are appear instead.

Dear Linux, living with you has become hard.

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