A Month With Linux: Some Shortcomings

Sorry to report, but I am not starting it yet. Recently I’ve been playing around with the latest release of OS X, 10.9 Mavericks, and it almost derailed this entire project of mine. However, I still have plans to go ahead with it and at the moment I am using the pending release of openSUSE 13.1 as a milestone where I will need to make a final decision as to which distro I am going to use and which month I am going to devote to this little project.

Instead of just sitting around, though, I am going to post what are some things holding me back from just jumping in and doing this. Warning, this is completely and totally biased and just my opinions. I have been running an Apple-exclusive household for a few years now and I find Apple’s hardware and software to fit most of what I want to do very well.

However, I philosophically fall in-line with the open source community and would consider myself an advocate for those communities as well. Keeping all of that in mind, I really want to see things get more than just better, but great for Linux and open source.

  • Email clients are routinely a pain in the butt. I know that “webmail” is the default way for most people to consume their mail, but I like having a single program where I am able to bring in all of my disparate accounts and access them at the same time. Sadly, from what I can find, no one is really interested in a the same unified inbox as Apple’s Mail.app can provide. I need to dig more into Thunderbird, but the lack of sane defaults kills me sometimes. I think that email clients are considered dead by a great many developers, and that is too bad because there is a ton of room for excellent email clients on Linux.
  • Lack of native applications is a pain sometimes. This might have more to do with the fragmentation of the Linux distributions more than anything else, but it really forces you into the browser for a great many things. I like the looks and feel of a truly native application, but on Linux the options just are not there for the sort of really excellent native applications I have become used to having on OS X and iOS.
  • I hope someone can help me with this one, but I have a hard time getting file system compatibility between Windows, OS X, and Linux machines. I know that FAT can work, but FAT has limitations I run into far more than I want. If someone has a modern file system I can use to make an external hard drive portable between Windows, OS X, and Linux I would love to hear it. I have some training materials along with disk images I would love to be able to move between those three operating systems.
  • For openSUSE, the lack of an openSUSE-specific theme for GNOME is kind of disappointing. OS X has a very distinctive look and feel, Windows has a very distinctive look at feel (don’t get me started on 8), but GNOME is GNOME is GNOME is GNOME … which might not be a terrible thing. The hard part is that I thought openSUSE/SUSE has an excellent theme for GNOME 2, but now it looks too “samey” for my taste.
  • Don’t worry, I won’t leave KDE out of this. The hoops you need to jump through to get some sort of “super button” on your keyboard is disappointing. For GNOME I just tap the Windows key and it brings up my search box. Not so in KDE. While I understand the philosophy behind it (and I spent two hours looking into it one day), it is still frustrating to not have a simple button I can push to bring up their menu.
  • KDE also has options for pretty much everything. I understand wanting to give people choice but … I guess it just doesn’t jive with my needs as much.

That’s a sampling. No deal breakers in there and definitely the opinions of a person who wants openSUSE to be more like OS X, which is a ridiculous thing to want.

With all of that said, I will still give it a try, and maybe some of it will grow on me over time. Still hoping some designers get the itch and really try to see how far they can bend GNOME to make a really attractive-looking openSUSE theme.

Another wildcard in all of this is what SUSE is going to do with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 12. While openSUSE has moved to having KDE be the default desktop, SUSE has not announced anything yet. If they move from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3, maybe there will be some work done there. If, however, they move to KDE then I think I might need to move on as well and learn to love modifier keys.