Monday, 21 July 2008

The End of the Affair

How do you fall out of love? It’s hard to say. The little annoyances that you have always put up with slowly become festering grievances. But do you fall out of love because they become grievances, or do they become grievances because you fall out of love?

There is usually some event which, when you look back, you realise was the moment when things began to go wrong. For Fedora and I, it was a few months ago when after yet another kernel update the sound on my laptop - which had been working perfectly – stopped working. The volume control suddenly had a red X next to it. Bizarrely system-config-soundcard showed that the sound card was configured correctly and could play a test sound. Clicking on the volume control however, just resulted in “No volume control GStreamer plugins and/or devices found.” Why?

Yes, I found a post on LinuxQuestions.org that discussed the problem. But by now I realized I was beginning to wonder why I should bother - so perhaps it was me. Was there a problem with PulseAudio? Was it a security issue? After spending several hours completely removing PulseAudio and after reinstalling all the ALSA packages, sound was working in MPlayer and Adobe Flash Player in Firefox, but I still had no volume control.

There have been other grievances of course; there is never just one thing. Suspend was working fine: now it doesn’t. If I suspend my laptop I have to hard boot it to get it to come back to life. Could I fix this? Probably. But it is one thing to have to get something working that has never worked: it is quite another to have to fix something that has been needlessly broken. I’m fed up spending my weekends scouring the Linux support forums for fixes to problems I shouldn’t have. Life is too short.

I want to get my laptop working with Internet Connection Sharing on my phone. Yes, I could get it working… But I’ve got a wife and children I want to spent time with, and code that I want to write.

Late in the first decade of the twenty-first century what do we use our Personal Computers for? You will have your own ideas, but I would suggest browsing the Internet, reading email, storing and playing music, watching video. Linux is not very good at any of these things. Firefox is hampered by font issues, Evolution is grim, MPlayer is great – when it works. Why do I have to reinstall the MPlayer plugins whenever Firefox is upgraded? Because they are two separate applications and nothing on Linux is joined up. I would pay for a distro that took away all the hassle - that managed my installation to keep it updated but kept it working. There is no such distro.

So after eighteen months of using Fedora as my everyday laptop OS I’m going back to Vista. It’s not that I won’t be using Linux anymore - far from it. Linux now has a permanent place in our server and development environments. Linux is a great workbench but it is a lousy desktop.

Am I giving up completely on a UNIX compliant desktop which works, is stable, and supports the twenty first century? Well there is always this :-)