Monday, March 16, 2009

End of the line

I'm pulling the plug on openSUSE 11.1, and in the process, on Linux in general as a home system. I've been a Linux user for 15 years, but the last two (since mid-2007) have been a rapid fall of the cliff with regards to deteriorating quality and usability. What will I use going forward? Windows (XP and 7) and OS X. What finally pushed me over the edge? A one-two punch of KDE 4.2 and a kernel upgrade.

When I first installed openSUSE 11.1 I was reasonably happy, especially with KDE 4.1.3. It was fast and stable, if still a bit incomplete, on europa. I was happy. Then I made, what I see in hindsight, as the fatal mistake of upgrading to KDE 4.2. Desktop performance went from reasonably snappy to slow, and at times, down-right lethargic. The desktop themes I enjoyed and appreciated were replaced or changed. The analog clock went from being simple and attractive in 4.1.3 to gawdy and ugly in 4.2, much like the themes themselves. For example, with regards to the analog clock, I would size it and place it in the upper right corner of the desktop. I'd log out and shut down the machine, then log in at a later time only to find the clock re-sized and sitting on the left edge. The hope I had for KDE 4 growing into the desktop it needed to be was pretty much killed by my experiences with KDE 4.2.

Then there was the kernel upgrade as part of the last group of upgrades. I use the ATI binary driver for my ATI video card. I always have, on every distribution I've installed on this machine. The free versions of the ATI driver are vastly inferior to the ATI release, regardless of the what the fans of those free drivers may say. There was a comment in the kernel upgrade release notes that the ABI had changed and that all drivers needed to be rebuilt. But I accepted the upgrade, hoping that perhaps, this time, openSUSE would automatically upgrade the ATI driver as well. Apparently it didn't happen the way I hoped. Restarting the machine after a shutdown produces a system that comes up with a black screen.

I could go into the forums and find out what happened, but to do so would require me to boot into Windows XP and browse from there. There is a rich irony in using Windows to rescue a Linux installation, but I'm in no mood to appreciate it.

So, like Béranger, I'm defecting from Linux to Windows as a rational act. No more spare cycles and spare patience. No more downloads of oversized ISOs to test yet another distribution. No more purchases of boxed sets, or consumer devices that use it if I can help it. My use of Linux is now limited to where I work, only because it's Redhat (RHEL 4 and 5) and my customer bought into the argument to do so five years ago. They were on Solaris 8 back then, and there's no reason why they might not migrate back to Open Solaris in the future.

But I'm done with Linux.

12 comments:

  1. Very sad story and somewhat surprising. It amazes me that during those 15 years glitches like the ones You mentioned made you even consider switching to Windows. And yes, these are minor.

    First: You're using KDE version that is still under rather heavy development.
    Secondly, during the upgrade the system told you what to do. Even so, there are other linux distribution's that won't break that easily, but after 15 years you probably know that.
    Lastly: I don't know about You, but I find the experience of using MS products profoundly frustrating after my switch several years ago. But that's just my point of view.

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  2. So you took an update, knowing it would break your closed ATi drivers, and then are upset about it?

    I don't agree with your sentiment on KDE 4.2, I really like it. But there are other desktops to try, as I am sure that you know.

    If you think the Windows desktop is usable (I really don't think it is), go for that then, enjoy it and you're welcome back to Freeville any time.

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  3. I have a different point of view.

    Why users should try to upgrade all the time in order to find out if the changes will make it or break it.

    If you had that Mandriva version that worked like charm to you, why the heck you have go a mess it up trying something different?

    You could still have a snappy and modern desktop and there will be no problems.

    The last time that MS changed their operating system was 7 years after XP and they still have it wrong but you think that going that way is the right way, go figure.

    Open source distros had a 6 month update cycle which is very possible that there will be glitches, specially because most of them are run by entusiast and no millonaire share holders developers like in MS.

    I'm not angry or anything about your decision, I just don't agree with the reason that make you take the plug.

    Good luck, I really enjoyed reading your blog.

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  4. Considered by themselves they seem minor. Placed in the context of a long downward slide, they are not.

    And I'm really tired of hearing the broken refrain of "KDE is in heavy development." I've heard that for the release of 4.0 (1/2008), 4.1 (6/2008), and now I'm still hearing it for 4.2 (1/2009). We're talking over a year of "official" releases, not counting the time before the release of 4.0 devoted to development. The rhetorical question is "When will we be done?" The rhetorical answer, at this point, is "Never."

    I can tell by the touch of sarcasm in your response that you may doubt my 15 years of experience. That's fair. Suffice to say I've overlooked and minimalized problems great and small in the past because it could be argued that Linux was advancing in general, and over time real high points were achieved; the most recent, in my opinion, was Q1 of 2007 around the time when openSUSE 10.2 was released along with Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty).

    But you do what you think is best for you.

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  5. Good luck Bill. I just think that a few weeks/months further down the track, you will have run into several Windows issues. But then again, those issues might not be big deals to you...

    Like I said, good luck!

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  6. I do agree with dstrosti : why do user always want to update their system to the latest version ? Just wait for the next stable release.

    BTW, at least on Mandriva, the system would have been able to fallback automatically to the free driver. Indeed if the module can't be compile, then Mandriva will detect this and fall back to the free driver. The same for nvidia. Last but not least, the tool to configure the graphic card can be launch in CLI, so even in text mode, you can fix your system.

    Good luck under Windows, this is also a good system ( XP + SP3 ), but the best one presently may be OS X if you can afford the price.

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  7. So you used a unsupported (by Suse) new version of KDE and found bugs?? Amazing!

    And you installed a kernel that told you that it will break your closed source driver .. and it told you the truth.

    But sure, it is all Linux fault.

    BTW: Living on the bleeding edge might get bloody.

    But will this mean that your insightful posts won't show up on Linux sites anymore?

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  8. Sad to see you leave, especially as according to you, you have been a Linux user since the beginning. I have over 10 years of experience in the IT industry, but I have been interested in computers since the ZX80. 3 Years ago, I made the big move and installed Ubuntu 5.10 on my main home PC and I haven't looked back since. I guess I am one of the lucky few who obviously don't expect to do much from my PC.

    KDE 4.x is a work in progress, it is not without faults, but I don't use it on my main PC, it is on a test PC and my main PC has Ubuntu which I upgrade every 6 months.

    MS isn't perfect either, Vista lasted on my work PC for about 6 months due to major issues with my hardware, mainly to do with memory. Now it runs XP and it works as it should.

    I have been beta testing Windows 7 and forget what the MS paid journalists say, its Vista minus a lot of the cruft.

    Good luck with your endeavour I shall miss your very enlightening writings

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  9. Bill,

    I Have followed your blog for some time now. I can say, as Darth Vader would have said, "I have felt your anger" :). I have been using Mint for about 2 years from celena to Felicia. When I upgraded to Felicia I quickly regretted it. I cursed myself for dumping Elyssa which I had tuned to near perfection. So I know what you mean about despair. Whatever you do, PLEASE do not delete your Linux stuff from your blog. It has been invaluable in the past. Its how I found your blog AND your entry fixed my system. I shall still read your input as I find your non-linux articles interesting. Good Luck Bill.

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  10. The points you are making are justified, as I experienced them myself.
    I have nVidia GPU, but I remember a year or so ago, a kernel update messed up my driver, switched off hardware acceleration and I was restricted to 800x600 resolution.
    I tried KDE 4.2 for a while, kept my PC on, the next day everything was nearly-unresponsive and my PC started swapping. Plasma was consuming around 75% of Physical Memory, a worst memory leak than Fx and in a critical component of KDE. That's when I switched to Fluxbox, and everything is snappier now no matter how much Fx 3.0 consumes. I had to edit config files once, set up everything as I want it to be, and that's it. The sad thing, my GPU now is wasted, idling doing nothing.
    I'm quite happy with Fluxbox and I don't think I'll switch back to Windows, unless my work requires it as it is what I use at work. I already have a MacBook and I'm considering getting either an iMac or Mini.

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  11. I dont get this need to upgrade.
    I still run XP through Virtuabox and that is a 9 year old desktop so I dont think holding on to KDe3.5 which was updated twice in 2008 is such a problem.
    Heck, even PCLinuXOS which is the distro both my parents use and is the friendly distro that I put on family/friends distro has decided to release PCLinuxOS2009 with the latest 3.5 for now.

    We have choice, we are not lemmings.

    Im using Mandriva2009 KDE4.2 along with Kubuntu and while the Ubuntu KDE offering is as buggy as ever, the Mandriva lives to its reputation and might just be the KDE4.2 for our family.
    Of course, this is all a question of choice.
    And right now Im using KDE3, KDE4, XCFE, E17 and Gnome (still hate it but I want to know what's happening) as well as XP (and even Vista at work sometimes).
    Choice.

    For someone new to the penguin, I could give 4.2 on Mandriva with no problem but for a KDE3.5, there are still a few things that havent caught up.
    But its ok, 4.3 will be around in June and so on and so on.
    Until then, NOTHING is forcing me to change from 3.5.1.0 which is still an amazing desktop which is still a top of the line one.

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  12. Bill, good for you! I'm glad that I'm not the only one who is tired of the current situation!

    I find it funny how Béranger rants, "I've cursed Microsoft for almost two decades, yet I have to resort to it to have a close-to-decent system reliability!"

    I agreed with most of what he wrote, and I started using Linux in 1992! But, of course as you know, I found my answer to be "Mac OS X", and I'll never look back! (Although I suppose Linux does work for my asterisk server.)

    I find it amazing that old school UNIX people can be happy with Windows (Whenever I do, I prefer Windows XP in classic, with MS Services for UNIX installed) -- To me, Apple has "gotten it right" as far as a modern-day UNIX-based system. I feel so crippled on a non-UNIX system. I find Windows to be so primitive, as far as out-of-the-box functionality!

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