The Ignorant Pipsqueak’s Ultimate Linux Fail Checklist

Linux T-shirt - Linux, sucking less for over 15 years.

This rant was originally instigated during the Fedora Core 5 days (as outlined in I will not use GNOME until…), and has been building steadily ever since, reaching a crisis point thanks to my recent purchasing of the Dell Inspiron 14z (2011). I’d been saving up my pennies and nickels over the last year with the intention of upgrading from my trusty but slightly-underpowered, way-too-small Asus UL20FT. I wanted something that would play nice with Ubuntu. The 14z was listed as being “Ubuntu certified,” so I figured what the hell. I wasn’t dating anyone at the moment; I didn’t need that dental work. I ordered the laptop at the Dell web site and uttered a quiet prayer that it wouldn’t arrive on my doorstep with a smoldering hole in the side of the box.

For the most part, using Ubuntu on the 14z has been a fuck-yeah experience. I’ve been using it for my daily work for about two weeks, and I can’t find any serious complaints. Video seems to work; audio works; the Internet works; the webcam works; the keyboard is uber-comfortable, with hardly any flex. Yesterday I had some free time to watch a movie…and that’s when the 14z’s dirty little secret was revealed to me: video playback (1080p or otherwise) “works” in Ubuntu—but it doesn’t exactly work right. Regardless of player software or file type, there’s a constant area of distortion / tearing at the top of any given video window. And here I thought the days of video tearing / vsync issues in Linux were long past. Not so. In an age when every single electronic device on Earth has the ability to play video (properly, most of the time), Linux is still the awkward kid who shows up to the talent show without having fully practiced his juggling routine the night before. There are balls rolling all over the gym floor. Worse, this video-tearing thing is happening on a piece of hardware that’s supposedly been certified to work flawlessly with Ubuntu. Or did I miss the fine print on the Ubuntu site? Is their certified hardware merely guaranteed to work, but not necessarily work optimally?

Yes, there’s a lengthy bug report over at regarding the issue, so I don’t doubt that in another year or two video will play properly on my 14z. But, damn it, I want it to work right now. Guess I’ll just have to pass the time by beating what’s left of the ol’ “Linux sucks!” dead horse. Don’t blame me; this wouldn’t have happened if Ubuntu would simply have let me watch Mr. and Mr. Smith without distorting the very top of the seme’s head.

Ultimate Linux Fail Checklist

Video tearing / vsync issues on certain computers with 2nd-gen Intel Core CPUs. 1080p video played flawlessly on my 1st-generation Core i3 laptop (UL20FT). On the 14z, well, I’ve already gone over that above. There’s a workaround for this—if you use Compiz. GNOME-Shell, my preferred desktop, doesn’t use Compiz. GNOME-Shell users such as myself are fucked for the time being. Unless we switch back to Windows 7, which plays video just fine on the 14z. Oh, the temptation.

ALT-TAB functionality is still in beta. That’s right, you heard me: one of the oldest and most taken-for-granted desktop conventions is still a work in progress for two of the most most prominent Linux desktops (GNOME-Shell and Unity). Random apps don’t show up in the ALT-TAB list. Instead, I have to constantly switch to overview mode. ALT-TAB always worked so well in Windows I’d long ago assumed that there’s no way anyone could fuck it up. Unity found a way. GNOME-Shell found another way.

Display brightness setting isn’t saved between GNOME-Shell / Unity sessions. My display always resets to full brightness after a re-start. Good for me with my glasses off, bad for my laptop battery. The fix: manually turn the brightness down after each re-start, or create a shell script to be launched automatically upon log-in.

Ubuntu’s overlay scrollbars. Interesting idea, clumsy implementation. Half the time the scrollbar handle appears when you mouse over the scrollbar area, the other half nothing happens until you re-focus the window. Adding insult to injury, the feature can only be disabled by editing certain config files, or by uninstalling the related packages. A toggle switch somewhere in System Settings would’ve been nice. Instead, three system packages have to be removed, either from the commandline or through the package manager.

There’s no convenient way to drag and drop between maximized windows. I almost exclusively work with maximized windows. Like, all the time. As far as dragging and dropping between maximized windows, Microsoft runs circles around Linux. In Windows 7, you simply drag down onto the taskbar and onto whichever app / Explorer window is appropriate at the moment. In GNOME you…um…where’s the taskbar?

(GNOME-Shell) How the fuck do you shut down your computer? Yes, I know you can simply hold ALT while the status menu is open to change “Suspend” to “Power Off…” but considering how flaky Linux can be with suspend, why is that GNOME’s knee-jerk shutdown option?

GNOME-Shell’s top-bar global application menu is merely a glorified close button. Seriously. All you can do with it is “Quit.” Supposedly, plans are in place for this to eventually become GNOME’s answer to Unity’s global menu. By that time everyone will have switched over to Xfce.

In GNOME-Shell, tall menu pop-ups are often hidden beneath GNOME’s top bar. For a desktop environment that prides itself on being neat and clean and keeping out of the way, this is pretty offensive. Almost as bad as when earlier versions of GNOME’s file chooser dialog opened at microscopic dimensions that had to be manually re-sized each time you tried to open or save a file.

No customizable compression settings in GNOME’s archive manager. This hasn’t changed in six years, and probably won’t change in another six. At least it supports 7-zip.

XUL-based apps (Firefox, Thunderbird, Celtx…) are slower than their Windows counterparts. I think I once read somewhere that the Linux versions of XUL apps aren’t optimized as well as their Windows versions. Why the hell not? Did recent polls show that Linux users prefer not to surf porn, check their e-mail, or write their next snuff film as efficiently as Windows users?

The lock screen isn’t as private as I’d like it to be. Moving the mouse or hitting a key during a locked GNOME session in order to bring up the password dialog causes your desktop background to pop up as well. Many users voiced their concerns over this “feature” before GNOME implemented it…and still there’s no preference setting to keep my supposedly locked laptop from revealing the naked Alicia Sacramone image I have set as my desktop background. All it takes is an accidental mashing of the keyboard by the bare butt of an uninvited guest, or the brushing of a tumescent wang against the touchpad and bam! Instant awkward.

(Disclaimer: The above is simply a reality check(list). I’m not hating on Linux in general, Ubuntu, Unity, or GNOME-Shell, even. In fact, GNOME-Shell and I are going steady. I just wish she wasn’t such a stubborn biatch sometimes. My fault for dating a Taurus.)

(Disclaimer #2: I’m not hating on Taurus people. In fact, two of my closest friends are Taurus, and I’d follow them to the ends of the Earth. I just wish they weren’t such stubborn assholes sometimes.)

(Disclaimer #3: I’m not hating on stubborn assholes. In fact, several of my immediate family members are stubborn assholes…)


About jesse

Book designer and formatter based in southern California. Supreme overlord of the SuperMegaNet pseudoverse.
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