Tuesday, 06 February, 2001

Thoughts on Linux

After almost a year of working with Linux on a regular basis, I'm both impressed and discouraged.  I'm impressed by the operating system's flexibility and its stability.  At the office, we have a Linux system running our DNS server, and another system that we use for testing and a few non-critical systems.  Both of these systems do their jobs flawlessly.  My system at home is more of a work horse.  I use it for development, and also run an internal web server, an FTP service, and an SMTP service.  This system, too, is rock solid.  I can crash some of the programs I run, but I've yet to have a user program take down the system.  I haven't worked with a more stable operating system, and for many (perhaps most) server applications, I'd rather run Linux than Windows 2000.  So why am I discouraged?

For all of its stability, Linux is still hard to use, especially as a desktop operating system.  The number of useful applications available for Linux, while growing steadily, is still quite small compared to Windows.  I haven't yet found a word processor that I like and has the features I need, nor a spreadsheet, presentation editor or HTML editor.  Nor have I found a decent development environment.  Borland's Kylix will likely change that, at least for Pascal programs.  I'd still like a good C/C++ IDE.  Will I have to wait for the C++ version of Kylix?  Nothing would make me happier than to replace Windows 2000 with Linux on my primary workstation, but I can't give up the usability that I have.  Both GNOME and KDE are coming along nicely, but they still lack many features of Windows that I have grown to rely on.  I'm discouraged because I see the major push in the Linux community to be improving the underlying operating system technology while the system's usability as a desktop operating system continues to suffer.  I'm not giving up by any means, and I'll continue work with Linux, but I've resigned myself to using Windows 2000 for the next couple of years.