5 disadvantages of Linux

Tuesday, June 9, 2009
When someone want to switch from Windows to Linux, he or she has a tendency to only think about the advantages of Linux and not think about the disadvantages. There is a bit of a "the grass is always greener at the other side of the fence" effect at play here. Most people have very good reasons to switch from Windows to Linux, but before actually switching it is important to review the disadvantages of Linux as well as the advantages. So what are the things that Linux does NOT do well?

- Linux does not run most commercial software. If you have some piece of commercial software ( i. e. software you purchased) on which you are very dependent, you may have a problem with Linux. Most software and game publishers do not yet have a Linux version of all their products, although the situation is improving. This disadvantage of Linux can be offset by two thing. First for most commercial applications there is a free equivalent application that runs on Linux. These equivalent applications are a good alternative in the vast majority of cases but they do not always have all the features of the commercial product they replace and do usually have a different interface. Initially you will need some time to get used to the new application. Another solution is to use WINE. WINE is a Linux program that allows you to use Windows applications and games under Linux. The disadvantage is that WINE is often difficult to use for new Linux users and does not work with all Windows applications or games.

- Less off-line help is available for Linux. If you look online you will find a lot of people willing to help you with any Linux problem you may have, probably more so than for Windows. Most Linux manufacturers such as canonical, the makers Ubuntu Linux, also allow you to purchase professional phone support for their version of Linux. If you require someone to pass by you house however, local Linux support is harder to find than help with Windows. In most cities there is usually at least one local company or support group close by that can help, but this can be disadvantage of Linux if you live in a rural or isolated area. On the other hand, the people supporting Linux are usually more experienced and knowledgeable than their Windows equivalent because a lot of technicians started on Windows and moved to Linux later, so once you have found help the quality of the support you get may be better than with Windows.

- Some re-training can be required. Although modern Linux distributions operate with a "point and click" interface, some of the underlying concepts can be different from the Windows world. This means that using Linux is very similar to Windows, but that maintenance tasks such as installing new applications can be somewhat different. If you have extensive Windows knowledge you may have to un-learn some habits and acquire others, which may be frustrating. Maintaining a Linux computer is actually easier than maintaining a Windows one, it is simply different, so if you had little computer maintenance knowledge to start with this may not be much of a disadvantage.

- Linux does currently not play Blu-ray discs. Well actually it's the other way around, it's the manufacturers of the Blu ray discs that forbid the creation of a Blu-ray player software like WinDVD for Linux. It is still sometimes possible to extract the file for playback on Linux but it is difficult and cumbersome! If you made an informed decision when buying your Blu-ray discs you probably knew that unlike DVDs you would only be able to play them on a very limited number of player (some Windows PCs and stand-alone Blu-ray players). Some people however assumed that they would be able to use them with the same flexibility as DVDs. This is not the case. For me this is not an inconvenient as I find Blu-ray discs too expensive and not flexible enough, so I don't buy them, but if you already have a large collections of Blu-ray discs that you wanted to play on your computer this can be a disadvantage of Linux.

- Not all hardware is supported. One of the problems of all operating systems is hardware support. Windows Vista for example does not support a lot of older peripheral. The Apple OSX operating system do not support some of the equipment designed for Windows PC. The same is true for Linux. Don't get me wrong: Linux has excellent hardware support, but that doesn't means that all your equipment is guaranteed to work. The most recent hardware is often not supported right away, so if you have a brand new computer that was designed for Windows Vista some of your equipment may prove to be too recent for Linux. Do not worry, compatibility of your existing computer is easy to check with a Linux Live CD. The same way that you need to look for and install drivers for Windows you may have to look for a solution or driver to make problematic hardware work with Linux. The good new is that most of the common hardware works out of the bow with Linux, but when something does not work it is usually harder to fix for new users than it would be under Windows.

As you can see Linux has some disadvantages over Windows, however the extent to which these disadvantages impact you will vary a lot depending on your situation and you tech savvy. If you have a lot of computer knowledge and learn new applications very fast the first 2 disadvantages will not impact you much. If you are a true beginner with little computer knowledge on the other hand then these can be real problems. In most cases these disadvantages are not a deal breaker however, but it is better that you start your journey to Linux with a basic knowledge of the trade-ins required when switching from Windows to Linux.

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Bruno said...

Allow me to disagree with you in some points and re-force others.
"Linux does not run most commercial software": I believe the main problem here from my experience is relative. For every commercial program there are OpenSource alternatives. But I must Agree that the main problem here is for Microsoft Office Power Users. I successfully install Linux Ubuntu in friends and family when I am asked and their adaptation is rater quickly and successfully. But my unsuccess rate begin to hapen when some MS Office Power users begin to try to edit and open some old Docs and PowerPoint presentations with OpenOffice. Lots of time their documents are unformatted and this creates a big resistance to change. My wife begin to work with Ubuntu for navigate the web, open e-mails, etc... But when start trying to work with Office she begin having problems... And unfortunately she have to return to Windows to do their work... So Solve this and you have 90% of the users with no problems changing to Linux...

With other points you write here I do not agree. You talk about support deficit and in my experience Linux have better compatibility than windows. Windows have lousy support (Europe) or almost none for private persons (but is true that everybody who works with computers know Windows but just some know Linux), and let me say that for every change have to exist a learning curve and that we cannot escape, but let me say for Linux Ubuntu 9.04 the learning curve that I watch the "normal" people having is very fast. Some times after a week of normal use people become very familiar with the new OS. I have some cases of people after begin using Ubuntu 8.10 or 9.04 they just quit using Windows 100%.

And for games, you have lots in Linux, but let me say if you are a power games you play consoles not in PC...

Erlik said...

As explained in the article, there is only a support deficit for Linux because it is sometimes hard to find a local support person, someone who will come to your home to fix things. Online and phone support are very good for Linux, but non technical users often prefer to pay someone to come fix their problem rather than deal with someone on the phone or online.

N said...

QUOTE: "Linux does not run most commercial software": I believe the main problem here from my experience is relative. For every commercial program there are OpenSource alternatives. But I must Agree that the main problem here is for Microsoft Office Power Users. ENDQUOTE

People who make statements like yours REALLY don't understand.

My brother built a small manufacturing company (50 employees). He uses CNC machines and a lot of engineering software - of which there is NO free equivalent. Also, he runs some software that is Mono-based (this is over my head, so my report is very poor), but he recently told me that the "support" for the software he uses is very poor and patchwork, and that a lot of the project developers are aloof and sometimes even condescending.

Here is perhaps one of the dilemmas in the linux/FOSS world. Many (most??) people who use is - especially for desktops - use it because it is Free$$$. So, combine this with the fact that Linux (especially desktop) has such small market share, and you realize that there is not much money to be made in developing linux ports for software.

So, for professional deployment that goes beyond the browser, email client, and office (word processor, spreadsheet, etc), Linux is still lacking. This is not a flaw of linux per se, but moreso is a result of the market place and relative market shares.


vvz said...

"- Not all hardware is supported" .., PC hardware support is one of the best I have ever seen. i never had to search for Linux drivers and so, but with Windows you need to have internet, floppy and cdrom to get motherboard to work (M2A-VM HDMI).

Hardware, as phone sync, GPS sync, Linux really lacks a lot of, but almost everything can be replaced with more or less better alternative

col said...

- Linux does not run most commercial software.
- True and not true.
- Most users don't even know how to get "commercial" software by themselves, unless it's a game. So for most users this point is not valid. For users of things like 3D Animation software Linux is actually preferred. Go figure ;)

- Less off-line help is available for Linux.
- Oh really? Try as a Windows user to ask for support from where you bought your computer, close to impossible. If you call Microsoft you can more or less forget about the support. Boils down to if you know where to get it or not. I don't see the relevance of whatever OS you use here. Getting off-line help is hard to get regardless for most users.

- Some re-training can be required.
- Most users have a hard time storing and retrieving files regardless. You actually need to train John Doe to attach files to an email and so forth. Openoffice looks so close to Office 2003 that most users won't have have an issue adjusting their fonts, saving files and so forth. Most users know so little, that there is little "re-training" to begin with, and when you need to train them in the first place. Linux.. Windows.. OSX.. it doesnt fucking matter.

- Linux does currently not play Blu-ray discs
- Who cares? If you play Blu-rays to begin with you got a standalone player. Linux with mplayer/ffmpeg plays x264 encoded content, hardware accelerated even. You'd never user it to play standalone discs, if you use it for a mediasenter Linux wont have a problem.

- Not all hardware is supported.
- Linux runs on a toaster for fucks sake. What are you talking about? Try to put in a Vista or heaven forbid an older version. You'll find out you'll need to put in a CD with drivers for every single piece of hardware you got except the CPU.
- Linux just runs, on close to any hardware. The hardware support is not absolute.. but it's lightyears beyond everything else most users will ever come into contact with.

Erlik said...

Try as a Windows user to ask for support from where you bought your computer => it is often possible, but you will have to pay for it of course. Try asking the geek squad to fix your Linux computer on the other hand...

Who cares? => Not me, but users that have a large collection of discs might.

Linux runs on a toaster for fucks sake => Yes, but the issue is that this support takes time to come to the kernel. Currently you can buy a "certified for Vista" printer or scanner, you can't do that for Linux yet. Granted there is a 99% chance that new hardware will be supported in 6 to 12 months, but that do not help the user now. What would be needed is "certified for Ubuntu / fedora / SUSE" Logos, and rpm & deb drivers packages on the manufacturer CD for that to happen.

drhowarddrfine said...

One big disadvantage of Windows is it doesn't run most Linux software, both free and non-free.

Linux may not run on as much hardware but it probably runs on your hardware and you don't need to upgrade anything with new versions.

This is a really dumb post.

Marx said...

I'm not sure why some people get so upset when people talk about certain pitfalls of Linux. Linux is not perfect and when you're talking about people switching it's best to not only show them all the neat things Linux can do, but also explain what it can't. Don't throw Linux on their computer and leave them thinking they can go out and buy the latest game and have it play fine.

As far as commercial software, especially for Office users, you're missing one of the BEST ways to have full compatibility. Just run office on Windows in a virtual machine. If their switching they already have a license so, why not use it? It's a perfect solution for someone who must use an office, accounting or other similar app on Windows (assuming they can't get it running correctly under wine, which usually has problems with the latest releases). A program like VirtualBox is so easy to set up, that even a semi-technical user who knows how to install an OS (but may not be an expert) could do it.

As far as hardware support, that's the only thing I have to somewhat disagree on. I've found that except for certain things (like TV tuner cards, some less common wi-fi chipsets), Linux has been able to support anything I've thrown at it for the last two years. Except for certain users it's becoming a somewhat irrelevant argument. HP has had linux drivers for any of their printers that I've had. And even for the few things you may have to wait a short while to get a working driver, you also should point out to the new users that one of the benefits of Linux is that the drivers are generally MUCH more stable. One of the biggest problems with Windows IMO is poorly written drivers that wreak havoc on your system.

jpalko said...

Unfortunately HP printer Linux support has gone more towards paperweight in newest models.

Personally I chose a Samsung laser printer as they provide themselves directly a Unified Linux Driver, Smart Panel software and Printer Setting Utility for about all of their printers. Yes, all of those for Linux. I'm not saying that those are perfect, but they really try at least. And my personal choice was a LAN connected printer from Samsung that has a web management frontend builtin. My previous HP Laserjet was a pain to setup and use compared to this baby.

Nice to know that the status of Bluray is like that as well. I've been waiting what comes next any way. I don't think that Bluray is bringing us the desired new wow factor that it's being hyped for. Well composed DVD movies are near perfection any way. For example Lord of the Rings movies editions were quite beautiful on normal DVD.

Leon RJ Brooks said...

WINE does work with an amazing number of games & applications, however. A trivial example is Chip's Challenge.

Now... how many Linux or OS X games or applications can be made to work under MS-Windows?

Hint: the answer starts with a 'Z.' (-:

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