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Desktop Linux
Topic: Technology 4:28 am EDT, Aug  7, 2007

Is there anyone on MemeStreams who regularly uses linux on their desktop?

I have to use Windows every day at work. There is something nice about my home computing environment being a little more slick. I like being able to open a unix command prompt. I like the design subtleties of my mac. Its pleasant to use. But I think it may be time to part ways.

I'm tired of Apple. My first mac, an iBook, had a problem where the screen would "go fuzzy" and require a motherboard replacement. This would happen annually, sometimes twice a year. For a while, Apple replaced the motherboards for free, but every time this occured, it involved a week without a machine. Once it also involved a computer which came back with a completely new hard drive. All my data was gone. Clearly, Apple never got to the root cause of the problem, as it kept happening over and over again. Eventually, last summer, Apple said they wouldn't replace the motherboard for free anymore, and their price was in excess of $1000. I had no choice but to buy a new computer.

So I bought a Macbook. I knew it was going to be trouble, but I did it anyway. It was nice for while.

About a month ago I spilled some beer on it. Obviously, my fault. Not like my prior problem. However, these things do happen to laptops and laptops ought to be designed with that in mind.

Instantly, one of the design flaws of the MacBook that I knew would be a problem going in reared its ugly head: There is no way to remove the keyboard. Keyboards get nasty. They get dirty. They do not last as long as the rest of a laptop. Good laptops are designed to make them easy to replace. But not the macbook. Its keyboard is embedded into the system. Its hard to remove and hard to clean. You have a problem with it, you have to send the system in for service.

After 24 hours of drying out, the keyboard didn't work, and so I figured it was going in for service. Fortunately, after a few more days of drying out the keyboard miraculously recovered. Worked fine. Worked fine for a while, anyway. Eventually the mouse started sticking. This got worse and worse over time until last week, when the mouse simply stopped working altogether.

Having no simple way to take the computer apart, my theory was that dust had collected to stickiness in the mouse, and that if I removed the battery and literally sprayed some water on the trackpad and then gave it a few days to dry out, it would likely be fine. This was a stupid idea. I should have SSHed into the thing and cleared out my data first. But I didn't. Again, my fault, not Apple's.

The computer isn't fine. I must have shorted something against the clock battery (which is basically impossible to access) and fried a motherboard component. There is gunk in the computer which might be capacitor guts. I'm fucked.

The reason its hard to get inside the macbook is that it has 27 screws which must be removed. These screws are extremely small, easily stripped, and installed with thread locking compound in locations that are very difficult to reach with a screw driver. They are obviously intended to deter any user maintenance. There simply is no need for this many screws. The hard drive, as well, has a small metal tray attached to it with "security screws." I have no idea where my "security" bitset went. I have no idea why the fuck Apple would choose to attach a hard drive to it's bay with "security screws" unless they intentionally set out to be able to claim that the hard drive could be replaced by the end user when in general that isn't actually true.

I could just mail the thing to apple, but there is some data that I do not want to loose from this hard drive, and having had the unpleasant surprise of obtaining my old computer from the mac store with a shiny new disk (they could have given me the old one instead of throwing it away), I've decided that I cannot afford the risk that they will pronounce my drive dead for some reason.

I don't even have an adapter that will let me hook this disk up to a computer. Its going to be a while before I can even send the laptop into support, its going to cost well in excess of $500 to repair it, and I'm sitting here struggling to unscrew these little screws so I can at least take a look at the motherboard and mouse assembly and see what it is that I managed to fry, and I'm thinking, fuck it.

I'm sick of having my computer down for a week once a year. I'm tired of things that are not designed to be user maintainable. I'm tired of the fucking genius bar where you have to set an appointment 3 days in advance so they can put a computer in a box and mail it somewhere and if you are 5 minutes late you are out of luck. I like Apple's computers, but I am tired of dealing with the company that makes them.

I could go out tomorrow and spend a few hundred bucks on a low end PC laptop and be up and running immediately with a linux desktop. It wouldn't cost that much more, and I could find something that was designed to be serviceable.

The last time I ran linux on my desktop, it had the following problems:

1. It didn't really work right. It sort of worked, but not really. Things were broken. Things weren't well supported. Things like the mouse. It actually didn't click exactly where it pointed some of the time. And this was an IBM laptop. Not something oddball. And some hardware was tweaky... like wifi adapters that had to be unplugged and replugged sometimes in order to reload the drivers.

2. It came with WAY, WAY too much shit by default. Every jackass who had ever written an open source GUI application had managed to get it placed in the default menu.

3. Things needed to be screwed with a lot. A lot of tinkering, a lot of configuring and compiling and updating. Systems Administration. People who run linux desktops like to configure stuff and seem to enjoy applications like mutt that are way too feature rich and are basically useless if you don't want to invest a few hours into getting them to work right. I don't want to do that. I want basic shit to just work. I have work to do. I want to get it done. My computer should enable that. The reason I'm sick of my mac is that its getting in the way.

4. Firefox was fine, everything else was crummy. The IM clients were just downright ugly.

Are these problems still the dominating factors of the world of desktop linux?

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