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Criticism of Linux

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Criticism of Linux

Criticism of Linux
Linux kernel booting

The criticism of Linux focuses on issues concerning use of operating systems which use the Linux kernel.

Desktop use

As a desktop operating system, Linux has been criticized on a number of fronts, including:

  • A confusing number of choices of distributions, and desktop environments.
  • Audio handling, particularly before PulseAudio became stable and widely supported.
  • Poor open source support for some hardware, in particular drivers for 3D graphics chips, where manufacturers were unwilling to provide full specifications.[1] As a result many video drivers have both open and closed source versions.
  • Lack of well-known native applications, such as top-selling video games and widely used commercial applications (such as Adobe Photoshop[2] and Microsoft Word).[3][4]
  • Lack of standardization regarding GUI API.[3]

Directory structure

The traditional directory structure, which is a heritage from Linux's Unix roots in the 1970s, has been criticized:[5]

The file system is a nightmare for a normal user. This has been covered in exhaustive detail by hundreds of articles …
—Adam Scheinberg, OSNews [6]

Directory structure reforming approaches, for instance by the distributions GoboLinux[7] and moonOS, achieved little acceptance and adoption up to now.[8][9]

Hardware support

Hardware developers have often been reluctant to provide full technical documentation for their products to allow drivers to be written. This has meant that a Linux user had to carefully hand pick the hardware that made up the system to ensure functionality and compatibility. These problems have largely been addressed:[10]

Years ago, if you wanted to install Linux on a machine, you had to make sure you hand-picked each piece of hardware or your installation would not work 100 percent ... This is not so much the case now. You can grab a PC (or laptop) and most likely get one or more Linux distributions to install and work nearly 100 percent. But there are still some exceptions; for instance, hibernate/suspend remains a problem with many laptops, although it has come a long way.[10]

At one time, Linux systems required removable media, such as floppy discs and CD-ROMs, to be manually mounted before they could be accessed. Mounting media is now automatic in nearly all distributions, with the development of the udev.[11]

Some companies, such as EmperorLinux, have addressed the problems of laptop hardware compatibility by mating modified Linux distributions with specially selected hardware to ensure compatibility from delivery.[12]


Another common complaint leveled against Linux is the abundance of distributions available. As of August, 2014, DistroWatch lists 285 major distributions.[13] While Linux advocates have defended the number as an example of freedom of choice, other critics cite the large number as cause for confusion and lack of standardization in Linux operating systems. Alexander Wolfe wrote in InformationWeek:

Remember the 1980s worries about how the "forking" of Unix could hurt that operating system's chances for adoption? That was nothing compared to the mess we've got today with Linux, where upwards of 300 distributions vie for the attention of computer users seeking an alternative to Windows.[14]

Caitlyn Martin from LinuxDevCenter has been critical of the number of Linux distributions:

We don't need to keep reinventing Linux, creating distributions that put critical bits in interesting and inventive if unusual places. An application written for Linux should be relatively simple to install on any Linux distribution. It ain't so. Do we really need hundreds of general purpose distributions, all with different tools, different filesystem layouts, variations on three major software package management schemes and a host of oddball ones, and so on? Do we need yet more to crop up?[15]

Kernel performance

At LinuxCon 2009, Linux creator Linus Torvalds said that the Linux kernel has become "bloated and huge":

We're getting bloated and huge. Yes, it's a problem ... Uh, I'd love to say we have a plan ... I mean, sometimes it's a bit sad that we are definitely not the streamlined, small, hyper-efficient kernel that I envisioned 15 years ago ... The kernel is huge and bloated, and our icache footprint is scary. I mean, there is no question about that. And whenever we add a new feature, it only gets worse.[16][17][18]

Criticism by Microsoft

In 2004, Microsoft initiated its Get the Facts campaign, which specifically criticized Linux server usage.[19] In particular, it claimed that the vulnerabilities of Windows are fewer in number than those of Linux distributions,[20] that Windows is more reliable and secure than Linux,[21][22] that the total cost of ownership of Linux is higher (due to complexity, acquisition costs, and support costs),[23] that use of Linux places a burden of liability on businesses, and that "Linux vendors provide little, if any indemnification coverage."[24] In addition, the corporation published various studies in an attempt to prove this – the factuality of which has been heavily disputed[25][26][27][28] by different authors who claim that Microsoft's comparisons are flawed. Many Linux distributors now offer indemnification to customers.[29][30][31]

Internal Microsoft reports from the Halloween documents leak have presented conflicting views. Particularly documents from 1998 and 1999 ceded that "Linux ... is trusted in mission critical applications, and – due to its open source code – has a long term credibility which exceeds many other competitive OS's", "An advanced Win32 GUI user would have a short learning cycle to become productive [under Linux]", "Long term, my simple experiments do indicate that Linux has a chance at the desktop market ...",[32] and "Overall respondents felt the most compelling reason to support OSS was that it 'Offers a low total cost of ownership (TCO)'."[33]

Con Kolivas' criticism of kernel politics

Con Kolivas, a former kernel developer, tried to optimize the kernel scheduler for interactive desktop use. He finally dropped the support for his patches due to the lack of appreciation for his development. In the 2007 interview Why I quit: kernel developer Con Kolivas he stated:
If there is any one big problem with kernel development and Linux it is the complete disconnection of the development process from normal users. You know, the ones who constitute 99.9% of the Linux user base. The Linux kernel mailing list is the way to communicate with the kernel developers. To put it mildly, the Linux kernel mailing list (lkml) is about as scary a communication forum as they come. Most people are absolutely terrified of mailing the list lest they get flamed for their inexperience, an inappropriate bug report, being stupid or whatever. ... I think the kernel developers at large haven't got the faintest idea just how big the problems in userspace are.[34]

Responses to criticism

The Linux community has had mixed responses to these and other criticisms. As mentioned above, while some criticism has led to new features and better user-friendliness, the Linux community as a whole has a reputation for being resistant to criticism.[35] Writing for PC World, Keir Thomas, noted that, "Most of the time the world of Linux tends to be anti-critical. If anybody in the community dares be critical, they get stomped upon."[35]

See also


  1. ^ " is unfortunate that NVIDIA will not be supporting the Nouveau development, releasing open-source documentation, or providing other open-source support...", March 26, 2010,
  2. ^ "How to Install Adobe Photoshop on Ubuntu Linux | TechSource". Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  3. ^ a b Tashkinov, Artem S. (2011-05-11). "Why Linux is not yet ready for desktop". Retrieved 2011-07-29. 
  4. ^ McCue, Andy (2005-09-09). "Gartner sounds desktop Linux warning". Retrieved 2011-07-29. 
  5. ^ van Riezen, Pim (2003-02-24). "Designing object extensions for the Unix Operating Systems". Retrieved 2010-06-03. 
  6. ^ Scheinberg, Adam (2003-02-24). "If I Had My Own Distro". Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  7. ^ Muhammad, Hisham (2003-05-09). "The Unix tree rethought: an introduction to GoboLinux". Retrieved 2010-06-03. 
  8. ^ "The GoboLinux directory structure brings a fresh, clean look the Linux system...", 2003,
  9. ^ moonOS has it own File Hierarchy System...
  10. ^ a b Wallen, Jack (September 2008). "Ten key differences between Linux and Windows, page two". Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  11. ^ Wallen, Jack (September 2008). "Ten key differences between Linux and Windows, page three". Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  12. ^ EmperorLinux (2009). "EmperorLinux". Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Wolfe, Alexander (2007-07-18). "Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess". Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  15. ^ Martin, Caitlyn (2007-01-16). "So Many Distros, So Little Time". Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  16. ^ Austin, Modine (2009-09-22). "'"Linus calls Linux 'bloated and huge. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  17. ^ "LinuxCon Roundtable in Torvalds Quotes". 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  18. ^ "Is Linux kernel getting bloated ? Linus Torvalds says Yes!". 2009-09-24. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  19. ^ "Get the Facts Home". Microsoft website. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  20. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Security". Microsoft website. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  21. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Reliability". Microsoft website. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  22. ^ "Windows v Linux security: the real facts". The Register. 22 October 2004. 
  23. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Total Cost of Ownership". Microsoft website. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  24. ^ "Get the Facts on Linux and Windows: Intellectual Property Indemnification". Microsoft website. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  25. ^ Joe Barr (24 June 2005). "The facts behind the "Get the Facts" ad campaign". Newsforge. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  26. ^ Nicholas Petreley (22 October 2004). "Security Report: Windows vs Linux". Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  27. ^ "Microsoft kills its 'Get the Facts' anti-Linux site", August 23, 2007, ZDnet
  28. ^ "Microsoft tried to muck with anti-Linux 'facts'", February 2, 2007, ZDnet
  29. ^ Novell Indemnification Program
  30. ^ What is Red Hat's Open Source Assurance program?
  31. ^ Canonical rejigs Ubuntu support services, Tiered support gets tiered pricing By Timothy Prickett Morgan, The Register
  32. ^  
  33. ^  
  34. ^ Mills, Ashton (2007-07-24). "Why I quit: kernel developer Con Kolivas". Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  35. ^ a b Thomas, Keir (April 2009). "Linux Needs Critics". Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
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