Linux

10 things that drive me crazy about current operating systems

It's no secret that today's operating systems have their share of problems. Jack Wallen describes the issues that frustrate him the most (and he doesn't spare Linux).

Everyone who has read my articles knows I champion a certain open source operating system. Does that mean I think it (Linux) is perfect? Not at all. In fact, at this point in my career I have issues with just about every operating system available. So in the spirit of fairness, I thought I would unleash on all of them and list my issues with every OS I'm currently using. These issues don't deal with third-party software -- just the operating system. That way, we're playing as fair as possible.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Windows and its obfuscation

One of the things I really hate about Windows is the fact that it hides everything. You have a problem with something going on? Where do you look? If you are running a Server flavor of Windows, you could look in various notification alerts. But outside of that, bad things happen and Windows simply doesn't want to let you know why. Yes, Windows 7 has the Action Center, but what good is that really? Why can't Windows also offer standard text-based log files so the user can just load up a text reader and scroll through everything that has happened. Linux/UNIX can do this. OS X can do this. Why not Windows? I don't want my operating system to hide everything from me. I want to know what is going on, what has happened, and why something isn't working.

2: OS X and its lack of flexibility

I used to think Windows was an inflexible operating system. But nothing really compares to the inflexibility of OS X. Now I understand that this was by design. After all, breaking something that won't bend in the first place is a challenge. And OS X is a challenge to break. But assuming that every OS X user is on the same level is a mistake. Apple should enable those who want to make the OS do what THEY want and not what Steve Jobs wants. An operating system should work with you, not against you. And as user-friendly as OS X is, it tends to work against the user.

3: Linux and its lack of standards

There is a reason the Linux Standards Base was created: To standardize many (if not most) of the aspects of the Linux operating system. But so far, the LSB has failed. This, of course, is not a failure on the part of the LSB as much as it is the developers of the distribution itself. And this inability to reach any collective conclusion on standards is hurting the Linux operating system. Linux needs standards so that software developers can more easily create software that will work cross-distribution. Believe it or not, this is really important to the continuing growth of Linux.

4: Growing system requirements

This one has had me dumbfounded for a long time. It seems like the hardware/software relationship is such a parasitic exchange. You create faster hardware, and we'll demand it be used. You create more demanding software, and we'll create the hardware to push it. It's a "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours and everyone wins" situation. And everyone does win -- except for the consumer. Yes, hardware is cheaper now. But for small businesses struggling to survive, having to dish out for new hardware every time a new release of the OS arrives is insane. Even Linux is starting to suffer from bloat requiring the users to have beefier hardware.

5: The ancient desktop metaphor

I have to say that this is going to change when GNOME 3 reaches its first official release. But overall, the current desktop metaphor, which has been around since the early days, is played out. Think about it in terms of mobile devices. Smart phone design is becoming very agile. The change in the "desktop" has been incredible over the last couple of years alone. Look at iOS and/or Android 2.0. The strides they have made in evolving the smart phone desktop is wondrous. The PC desktop? Not so much. It's time for a change -- a major change. Maybe GNOME 3 will lead the way for such a change.

6: Security

This one has to be pointed directly at Windows. I realize that a good portion of the security issues Windows suffers from involves third-party software. But because this is such a well-known issue, Microsoft should do something like pull an Apple and make sure all third-party developers follow stringent rules as well as require an approval process before software is allowed to be sold for the Windows operating systems. Why? Because virus, malware, spyware, and security issues are rampant on the Windows platform. Any chance Microsoft has to bolster the security of its flagship property would be seen as a major leap forward.

7: Drivers

I have a rather strange take on this one. I believe that every distributor of every operating system needs to come together to create some sort of consortium and strong-arm hardware manufacturers to get them to simply open up their specs. This would take so much of the guesswork out of developers' hands. We all know that hardware manufacturers make zero profit from drivers. So why do they keep their drivers so close to the vest? Are they afraid another manufacturer will steal their secrets? That is laughable. Instead, the OS developers just let the hardware manufacturers do as they please. How much longer is this going to continue before something (or someone) snaps?

8: Updates

I don't want to get up on my usual soapbox, but I have to say that the majority of Linux distributions handle updates far better than any other operating system. But they're not perfect. In fact, I recently encountered an update for Ubuntu that broke a previously working piece of hardware. But Linux is far less guilty of updates causing issues. The standard Windows update model has caused plenty of headaches, rollbacks, data loss, and cash flow interruption. And Apple updates? Have you ever updated your iPhone OS? How much of a nightmare can that be? Although the Linux update model isn't perfect, it's at least a solid enough middle ground, which all other OSes can learn from.

9: Beta testing

Microsoft finally realized that the Linux testing process is actually a pretty good model to follow. So much so that it released the beta of Windows 7 into the wild and allowed the general public to kick the tires. Then of course, the general public had to purchase and reinstall the full version when it arrived. Why couldn't the general public -- those who helped beta-test the software-- get a discount for their trouble as well as NOT HAVE TO REINSTALL? Wouldn't that have been nice? And just why hasn't Apple followed suit? I am not about to purchase an operating system not knowing whether it has been fully tested in the court of public opinion. For the last 12 years, I have been getting my OS for free. So if I am going to PAY for that OS, it better work well out of the box.

10: Marketing

Listen to me Linux (and listen well). If you are EVER going to take it up a notch, you are going to have to figure out a way to market yourself. Yes, word of mouth has done wonders for you to this point. But word of mouth can take you only so far. To get beyond what seems to be a stalling point, someone (hello Canonical!!) is going to have to step up and run some ads. And I'm not talking ads here on TechRepublic, or CCN.com, or CPU magazine. I'm talking TV ads. The only way you are ever going to be able to grab that market share crown from the reigning king is to get in front of those not already singing in the choir. It's not about software. We all know your operating system is solid. It's about PR, marketing, the campaign that makes everyone aware of your existence.

Other issues?

So that's what really gets me going about operating systems. Not one of them is exempt. We've all experienced our personal hells with an OS now and then. What really irks you about an operating system?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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