I’m a big Linux fan. I’ve been using in some way or another since 1999 and wouldn’t consider myself a novice. But despite all my efforts over the years, Linux is still unable to meet my needs as a desktop OS. Now, I do use Linux regularly as a server at work, and it’s a rock solid beast. But when it comes to the desktop, I find it wanting.
Take today’s release of Ubuntu 9.04 – Jaunty Jackelope. I’ve been using it since beta, and it’s got a lot of good stuff going for it. Boot time is excellent… around 26 seconds on my desktop. After installing a few fonts from other sources (such as my beloved Futura, and my new favorite coding font, Droid Sans Mono from Google’s Android platform), it is simply gorgeous to look at. Ubuntu has finally learned exactly how to properly display fonts.
But apart from the shiny exterior, and the admitedly stable structure that frames any UNIX based OS, is a slew of problems that prevent Ubuntu from taking over my desktop. Multimedia support is a big problem. After a few commands, I had all the gstreamer codecs installed from Medibuntu, vlc player and skype. But everything is still such a cobbled-together mess.
Xvid files drop frames in vlc, even though I’ve got a system that should easily handle this type of stuff. I can double-click the vlc window to make it full screen… but I must wait for 5-10 seconds as it slowly chugs away at this simple procedure. (Simple in terms of how Windows and osx86 handle it the exact same procedure, on the exact same hardware, with the exact same version of VLC.) If I open the same files in Totem, it’s hit or miss whether it will display anything at all, or will just be a black window. I once full-screened the Totem window to have my entire X session hang.
Support for things such as webcams is also dreadfuly inept. My Logitech webcam was detected immediately and “worked” to some extent. Skype recongized a generic usb camera, and was able to display video. However it only displayed a fraction of the actual camera image, a zoomed in corner of the view. Skype, nor cheese, nor camorama, nor any other camera app I could find have any actual settings for this. So unless I only wish to show a corner of my head, or mount my webcam 10 feet behind my monitor, this webcam is useless.
Media streaming? Sorry there’s no orb support, nor any built-in media streaming ala Windows Media Center. You can try Jinzora (which requires you to run a web server with MySQL databases on your PC [no thanks, I deal with that enough at work]) or open up the troubled VLC to stream.
I really want to love Ubuntu. And I do have it installed on two old laptops here where I fuck around with perl and c++. But as it stands, unfortunately it just does not meet my needs. It’s sad that XP is still the best OS option I have.