Linux's downfalls (IMO)

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Welsh Mullet
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Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Welsh Mullet » Wed Jan 27, 2010 10:22 pm UTC

I have recently tried out a distro of Linux, called Linux Mint, which is apparently the 4th most popular desktop operating system.
However, many of the ways in which the OS and it's users behave seems to contradict what the OS says it stands for.
The OS's site says it strives to make the OS easy-to-use, among other things. However, during my short time using it, it seems to do the complete opposite.
Files downloaded from sources other than repositories via a package manager must be added manually, providing no automatic short cut generating or "uninstall" functions. There is also no way other than the package manager to "install", with manual programs simply being unpacked from a tar.bz2 and run. I agree with many new users that this is confusing, to say the least, and isn't something the "average" computer user would be able to handle.
Also, getting support for problems such as that stated above on forums leads your to be ridiculed and taunted by Linux "users" as they provide helpful remarks such as "It's not Windows" , "Go back to Windows: point and click adventures" or "Use the command console" again something the average user would find very difficult.
Thus, this has lead me to vow to create a truly user friendly and intuitive distro of Linux, which is easy to understand for users migrating from other systems, and will include some of their most useful features (I hope). Note this will probably take quite a while, but I should have more time to work on it once I go to university.

What are your views on this (or what seems to be to be a ) contradiction between Linux's key "aims" and what it is in real life?

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby keeperofdakeys » Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:49 am UTC

I'm sorry that you have met some of the more unfriendly people on the internet, a good forum for linux is http://www.linuxquestions.org/, and remember to use search.

If you want a simple distro, use ubuntu. Ubuntu is specifically designed so that you shouldn't have to go into the command line. Although in real life, you might need to fix something and you will inevitably end up in a terminal.
Ubuntu also has nearly any package you need in the repository, so you usually don't need to compile from source.

You should understand that linux IS different from windows and that there is no one definition for easy-to-use. Linux is pretty much built by geeks (and companies) for geeks (and companies). There is no key aim for linux, it's just people building an os they want to use. In real life it is used for servers, lot's of embedded systems and for desktop OS's, with the audience depending on the specific distro.

I agree that a lot of the average computer users couldn't handle building from source (at first), but this is the way most linux applications are installed (on distro's without package managers). A difference in linux is with the shortcuts. Unlike windows the applications, linux apps are installed to massive folders like /bin/ and /usr/bin/. These folders are on the path, or in other words, are searched every time you type a command. So if I type firefox in a terminal, it will automatically load the firefox binary located in one of the folders on the path, even if my terminal is in a totally different folder.

But tell me, why should you make 'another' easy to use distro. There is no right choice for selecting an OS. If someone really does want to switch to linux they will make the effort, or they can just go back to there old one. You're probably much better helping an already made distro.

Sorry if I come off as ranty.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Area Man » Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:53 am UTC

I'm not usually pedantic about it, but Linux is a kernel- the "aim" is to be fast, correct, and work with various hardware.
The other utilities and programs are just made to work with the kernel.

The "users" are just individuals, no one can control what they say. You get trolls anywhere. Some people want everyone to be a user, some consider it a Rite of Passage for hackers.
(I probably fall more to the latter end of the scale. Unwashed masses will bring the plague.)
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby MrBlueSky » Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:57 am UTC

There is no way other than the package manager to "install", with manual programs simply being unpacked from a tar.bz2 and run.

Many programs can be run fine like this. Most programs intended to run on Linux will have a readme file included to explain to new users which file to run.

What are your views on this (or what seems to be to be a ) contradiction between Linux's key "aims" and what it is in real life?

What you're doing here is looking at one distro and applying it's aims to linux in general. There are tons of distros that are specifically aimed at more advanced users, distros that are aimed at server use, and distros for embedded applications. etc etc

and at the expense of coming off as a dick: I think you'd better learn a bit more about Mint before trying to take on a distro of your own (;

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Earlz » Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:11 am UTC

MrBlueSky wrote:
There is no way other than the package manager to "install", with manual programs simply being unpacked from a tar.bz2 and run.

Many programs can be run fine like this. Most programs intended to run on Linux will have a readme file included to explain to new users which file to run.

What are your views on this (or what seems to be to be a ) contradiction between Linux's key "aims" and what it is in real life?

What you're doing here is looking at one distro and applying it's aims to linux in general. There are tons of distros that are specifically aimed at more advanced users, distros that are aimed at server use, and distros for embedded applications. etc etc

and at the expense of coming off as a dick: I think you'd better learn a bit more about Mint before trying to take on a distro of your own (;


Yea, creating a Linux distro is not something the "Average user' can do either :)

Really, there just needs to be a definitive guide to begin using *nix OSs. Windows users are use to having it so that if you click on the EXE it either runs or it begins an installer... It is *impossible* for Linux to make the switch to this kind of mind set.

Unix OSs are plainly different. There will always be a steep learning curve.
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby lulzfish » Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:44 am UTC

Welsh Mullet wrote:Package management is lame

I completely agree with you.
Having used Ubuntu Linux for maybe 2 years and now Arch for a few months, I can say that this is the one giant fuck-up desktop Linux distros have.
The Linux directory system is a tradition from older Unix systems where it probably made sense. Instead of implementing a better tree, they just added package managers (and package managers, and package managers, and package managers) on top, and the desktop distros ended up going with it.
They keep it around for backwards-compatibility, and few people want to put in the effort to stop it.

GoboLinux has tried, but I haven't had much luck even getting Gobo to run, and it seems to be even less friendly than Arch Linux (which is a couple of steps beneath Ubuntu and Mint)

Allegedly Arch Linux has a way to install things from source and track them through the package manager, but I haven't looked into it. Maybe I'm confusing it with GoboLinux again.

Haiku, the clone of BeOS, uses a Mac OS X-like directory tree, which makes a lot more sense, and I intend to switch to them if they can ever match Linux in hardware support and in having a nice GUI.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby phlip » Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:59 am UTC

lulzfish wrote:Allegedly Arch Linux has a way to install things from source and track them through the package manager, but I haven't looked into it.

It'd surprise me if it didn't... I know APT-based distros have checkinstall.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby sonickrahnic » Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:08 am UTC

I am a so-called 'distro-hopper', having used more than 20 different distributions of the GNU/Linux OS. Usually, I run them in emulation software (Virtualbox) so I don't have to partition my drive. There are roughly 500 different implementations of the GNU/Linux system which all appeal to different user types and skill levels. I will recommend Ubuntu as a good stepping stone from Windows to GNU/Linux as it allows new users an easy way to 'bridge the gap' so to speak, between the two. Ubuntu provides a good user interface and allows you to do most tasks without needing to use a command line or install from source. http://www.distrowatch.com provides a list of the 100 most popular distros and has a listing for each new distro that comes out. I would recommend that you figure out a)whether you want to make the switch to GNU/Linux or stick with Windows and b)what you plan to do with the operating system. Generally, if you are a gamer, chances are most games will not be compatible, unless you use the WINE compatibility tool. If you are a digital musician, most digital workstations will not work, however there are many comprehensive and comparable tools for GNU/Linux.

Speaking of downfalls, there are a few, but many are distro-specific and cannot all be listed here. There are a few hardware problems I have noticed with my laptop, wherein certain components are not compatible, indicating a lack of drivers. Certain distros I have tried do not detect my wireless card (Debian 'Lenny', figure that one out) and I still have absolutely no headphone or microphone compatibility with any distro I have tried yet.

GNU/Linux is starting to make the transition from a fringe OS dedicated to developers and hackers (the good kind) to a desktop system rivaling Windows and OSX. I have noticed this a lot more lately as the desktop environments (KDE and Gnome and others) seem to be adding more and more eye-candy and easy to use tools, such as KDE 4.3's desktop widget system. In my opinion, less GUI makes it a lot easier to use a system. I hate clutter on my desktop and generally use Openbox as it looks cleaner. I think too much eye-candy confounds the whole process of learning the OS properly. Also, I am a command-line user as much meaning I use my keyboard more than my mouse. I hate clicking and I love running programs from source. Easier and cleaner in my opinion.

To the OP: Mint used to be my distro of choice, until it started randomly rejecting my wireless signal. As I said, I like to try anything and everything so I jump around a lot, but Mint I have a sort of love-hate relationship with. In the end, remember, many distributions coming out nowadays are simply reworked versions of Ubuntu, each catering to a certain type of user. I would implore you to simply let the unwelcome and unnecessary comments you received roll off your back and keep pressing onward. There can be a fairly steep learning curve for all GNU/Linux systems, especially if you've only ever used Windows. in truth, not all GNU/Linux users are rude in that fashion, but I know there is a sort of 'superiority complex' that many of us get when we realize we know a system that not many others do. I remember gloating to my girlfriend the first time I compiled a program from source.

Anyway, I just realized I have four paragraphs above this one and I think this is starting to resemble a love story so I will cut it off here. Just remember, OP, that GNU/Linux is a great alternative OS to Windows and as FOSS it is a lot cheaper than buying a proprietary system. And free upgrades takes a load off the wallet too.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Meteorswarm » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:24 am UTC

sonickrahnic wrote:GNU/Linux is starting to make the transition from a fringe OS dedicated to developers and hackers (the good kind) to a desktop system rivaling Windows and OSX. I have noticed this a lot more lately as the desktop environments (KDE and Gnome and others) seem to be adding more and more eye-candy and easy to use tools, such as KDE 4.3's desktop widget system. In my opinion, less GUI makes it a lot easier to use a system. I hate clutter on my desktop and generally use Openbox as it looks cleaner. I think too much eye-candy confounds the whole process of learning the OS properly. Also, I am a command-line user as much meaning I use my keyboard more than my mouse. I hate clicking and I love running programs from source. Easier and cleaner in my opinion.


Part of the beauty of the loosely-coupled graphical system that Linux uses (i.e., window managers on top of X) is that you can have your opinion, I can disagree with it, and all we have to do to both be happy is run different window managers with our own config files. We can even coexist on the same box, along with the guy who likes to startx manually. Try doing that on a closed OS.

Additionally, with the ubiquity that Ubuntu's package repositories are reaching, it's almost at the point where only rarely do you have a repository miss, and, for things in the repository, it's really very convenient to install and uninstall.
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby b.i.o » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:15 am UTC

Welsh Mullet wrote:Package management is lame

Package management is the best thing about Linux. I almost never run into things that don't have packages anymore. It is so amazingly nice to be able to type 'sudo yum install x' and have things just installed. And being able to run a single command to update every single package on my system is wonderful.

Allegedly Arch Linux has a way to install things from source and track them through the package manager, but I haven't looked into it.

It does.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby OOPMan » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:03 pm UTC

Welsh Mullet wrote:Files downloaded from sources other than repositories via a package manager must be added manually, providing no automatic short cut generating or "uninstall" functions. There is also no way other than the package manager to "install", with manual programs simply being unpacked from a tar.bz2 and run.


This is intentional. I think you have not yet groked the concept of package management and the open source software ecosystem in general.

In the windows software ecosystem there are thousands of developers all working on their own projects. By and large these projects are of a closed-source nature and are released by their creators in a haphazard fashion in a variety of forms. Windows software installs itself using a variety of software installation managers, most of which integrate with the Windows Add/Remove Software component. Due to the nature of windows software development and distribution there are no real software repositories because the Windows OS itself does not provide a unified application installation framework similar to those found on *nix. This is not to say that such a thing is not possible on Windows, just that it hasn't been done and is unlikely to be done for various reasons.

In the *nix software ecosystem there are thousands of developers all working on their own projects. By and large these projects of are of an open-source nature and are released primarily in a source form by their creators. This single factor is what enables the *nix software repository system to function as it does. Because software is provided primarily as source code, it is relatively simple matter for someone or some organization to set up their own package repository and integrated software management system. Software is integrated into the repository initially as a source package. From their, automated build systems build the majority of the software into easily installable binary packages. These packages are stored and organised in the repository and are available to end-users to download and install via their package management system.

The difference here is that with windows software, you rely on the primary developers to build and package their software for distribution, whereas in the *nix software system the responsibility of building and packaging software for distribution can be de-coupled from that task of writing the software.

I realise that as someone new to the *nix way of thinking, this may seem weird. Possibly it doesn't make sense to you. However, the reality is that *nix software ecosystem, overall, provides a far more robust and flexible method of software distribution than the windows software ecosystem comes close to for the standard desktop user. For further reading, I suggest you take a look at The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond, a fairly seminal paper on aspects of the subject.

I agree with many new users that this is confusing, to say the least, and isn't something the "average" computer user would be able to handle.
Also, getting support for problems such as that stated above on forums leads your to be ridiculed and taunted by Linux "users" as they provide helpful remarks such as "It's not Windows" , "Go back to Windows: point and click adventures" or "Use the command console" again something the average user would find very difficult.


I'm sorry to hear that you've had such difficulties with the online help floating about. However, the rotten apples are always in the minority. By and large I've always found the linux user community to be extremely helpful, although I must confess I've never had much need to ask for help online ;-)

Thus, this has lead me to vow to create a truly user friendly and intuitive distro of Linux, which is easy to understand for users migrating from other systems, and will include some of their most useful features (I hope). Note this will probably take quite a while, but I should have more time to work on it once I go to university.


I suspect that the task of creating a linux distribution involves far more work than you imagine. I also suspect it requires a far more intimate knowledge of linux than you have at the moment. However, if you are willing to take the time to really, truly grok the *nix model, then I'm sure you will have plenty of fun building your own distribution.

What are your views on this (or what seems to be to be a ) contradiction between Linux's key "aims" and what it is in real life?


Ultimately, I don't think there is a real contradiction. Linux, and *nix in general, is built by geeks, for geeks. Ultimately, the considerations of clueless desktop users are not that relevant. Unless you happen to believe all that "Year of the Linux Desktop" jazz. Personally, I'm a developer and hence have little faith in the ability of the average person to do much more than wipe their own bottom. Thus, as long as linux remains by geeks, for geeks I shall be a happy man.
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Earlz » Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:44 am UTC

sonickrahnic wrote:I am a so-called 'distro-hopper', having used more than 20 different distributions of the GNU/Linux OS. Usually, I run them in emulation software (Virtualbox) so I don't have to partition my drive. There are roughly 500 different implementations of the GNU/Linux system which all appeal to different user types and skill levels. I will recommend Ubuntu as a good stepping stone from Windows to GNU/Linux as it allows new users an easy way to 'bridge the gap' so to speak, between the two. Ubuntu provides a good user interface and allows you to do most tasks without needing to use a command line or install from source.


Before I began using OpenBSD, I tried a few different distros. I tried Ubuntu, Redhat 7, 8, and 9. I believe I tried Fedora, and such..

I honestly found the user interface to be confusing on switching from Windows. For one, it makes you scared to do something that the GUI doesn't allow for. And the GUI is subtely different in a lot of ways. So, what you may expect to work, may not.

When I began using OpenBSD, I had a tiny bit of Unix experience, but not much(like, I couldn't use vi) but jumping straight in made me understand how it all worked. It took a longer for me to actually get a "working" system running(as in, capable of doing everything I want) but once I got it working, I understood what did what. There wasn't this vague layer between the command line and the GUI as there was with other GUI centric OSs.. I knew what config files went where..

I would bet this is a bit unusual, but I'm also a programming..
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby LikwidCirkel » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:07 pm UTC

I'm troubled by the notion that the OS's are so different. For every method of program distribution mentioned, there is an equivalent for the other system. The only difference is how common each method is.

For example... Three types of programs, standalone, OS-supported install, or independent install.

Standalone:
Windows, .zip file and a binary program. Linux would be a .tgz (or whatever), and a binary program. In EITHER case, there is no mechanism to "uninstall". It's up to the user to understand this, for both Windows AND Linux - there is absolutely no difference. If you don't like .tgz distributed programs on Linux, do you have a problem with standalone zip programs on Windows?

OS-Supported Install:
Windows .msi installer, which forces registration with the OS so it can be removed with Add/Remove control panel. Libraries can be installed on Windows this way too. On Linux, this is equivalent to using a package manager with a .deb or .rpm or whatever. The "repository" is just candy and is the only significant difference - but you can still get non-repository packages that will be handled by the package manager.

independent install:
The most dangerous and inconsistent type. On Windows, think installer exe - which may or may not register with the system so it can be later easily removed. On Linux, there are a great deal of programs that are installed this way. They are generally expensive commercial apps, and come with some kind of installer program or script that doesn't use the package manager.

I'm a heavy user of both OS's, and I really think that they're much more similar than some people want to believe. The only difference is the "traditional" way of installing software, but the functionality all has equivalents, with a few minor differences. I personally like Linux package management, because it provides access to safe software, and it optimizes the use of shared libraries with version checking - something that would be very complicated on Windows.

I also don't think Windows is any more easy to use or figure out than something like Ubuntu.. they're just different, that's all. The "must use console to get anything done" attitude is very out of date, and completely ridiculous with certain "Linux" distros - ie. Android, or Asus's Linux for eeePC.

No one could possibly convince me that Windows is easier to use than Asus's eeePC Linux. I put Linux Mint and Windows XP pretty close together for ease of use.. both have kinks - some people are just more used to the kinks of Windows.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby keeperofdakeys » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:15 pm UTC

LikwidCirkel wrote:I'm troubled by the notion that the OS's are so different. For every method of program distribution mentioned, there is an equivalent for the other system. The only difference is how common each method is.

For example... Three types of programs, standalone, OS-supported install, or independent install.

Standalone:
Windows, .zip file and a binary program. Linux would be a .tgz (or whatever), and a binary program. In EITHER case, there is no mechanism to "uninstall". It's up to the user to understand this, for both Windows AND Linux - there is absolutely no difference. If you don't like .tgz distributed programs on Linux, do you have a problem with standalone zip programs on Windows?

For a windows .zip file you generally don't install anyway, so the equivalent of uninstalling is by removing the unpackaged folder. With linux tar balls, most of them I have seen actually have a uninstall function programmed into the make file.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby TNorthover » Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:37 pm UTC

LikwidCirkel wrote:OS-Supported Install:
Windows .msi installer, which forces registration with the OS so it can be removed with Add/Remove control panel. Libraries can be installed on Windows this way too. On Linux, this is equivalent to using a package manager with a .deb or .rpm or whatever. The "repository" is just candy and is the only significant difference - but you can still get non-repository packages that will be handled by the package manager.

I really don't think the repository and package manager are just candy. They're at the core of virtually every unix-like distribution in some form, and provide extremely useful dependency management.

The only similarity with .msi (or equivalent .exes) seems to be an uninstall ability, which is a pale shadow of the functionality expected under unix.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Meteorswarm » Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:01 am UTC

keeperofdakeys wrote:
LikwidCirkel wrote:I'm troubled by the notion that the OS's are so different. For every method of program distribution mentioned, there is an equivalent for the other system. The only difference is how common each method is.

For example... Three types of programs, standalone, OS-supported install, or independent install.

Standalone:
Windows, .zip file and a binary program. Linux would be a .tgz (or whatever), and a binary program. In EITHER case, there is no mechanism to "uninstall". It's up to the user to understand this, for both Windows AND Linux - there is absolutely no difference. If you don't like .tgz distributed programs on Linux, do you have a problem with standalone zip programs on Windows?

For a windows .zip file you generally don't install anyway, so the equivalent of uninstalling is by removing the unpackaged folder. With linux tar balls, most of them I have seen actually have a uninstall function programmed into the make file.


I think he meant precompiled binaries, the ones you download and then just run a script or the binary directly, not ones that compile (i.e., have a make file).
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby eviloatmeal » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:17 pm UTC

Welsh Mullet wrote:...the 4th most popular desktop operating system...

So you're expecting the 4th most popular Linux distro to be equivalent to the most popular Microsoft/Apple/Other distro? Try instead comparing the 4th of each. For Microsoft I believe that would be... not Windows 7, not XP, not Vista... probably Windows 98. For Apple this would, if we called X a separate OS from the previous Mac OSes, neither Mac OS nor OS X, nor the portable distro that goes on the i-series of portable thingies, but perhaps Darwin or whatever the original Macintosh ran on. Compared to these, I'd say Mint has a few extra features that makes your life just a tad easier.

Of course if you wanted to compare something to the latest Windows 7 or Mac OS X, you should look for the latest and most popular Linux distro. Oh, and, don't forget to spend as many years learning how to use that distro as you spent on Windows (or whatever). Then you'll be able to make an accurate comparison!
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby Meteorswarm » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:52 am UTC

eviloatmeal wrote:Of course if you wanted to compare something to the latest Windows 7 or Mac OS X, you should look for the latest and most popular Linux distro. Oh, and, don't forget to spend as many years learning how to use that distro as you spent on Windows (or whatever). Then you'll be able to make an accurate comparison!


This is the big one. If I moved to a new city and went around saying it sucked because I couldn't find anything, and this flower shop is here where my butcher used to be, they'd lock me away. Yet people can do it with computer operating systems and not get any flack for it. Being used to something does not make it objectively better. It might be better for you if you take into account the cost of climbing the learning curve, but that's (sort of) irrelevant in most discussions.
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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby lulzfish » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:13 am UTC

Of course, I've been using Windows for various purposes since I was 4 or 5, so I had something like 10 solid years of user experience and even a little programming with it before I ever saw a Linux system.

I've been using Linux for maybe 2 years now, and I'm more familiar with the interface and behind-the-scenes stuff than Windows, but this is probably because Linux actually lets me in behind the scenes, to the kernel module-loading, and the compilation of programs, where Windows seems to have a much steeper learning curve.

But if it would have taken me 10 years to match the pathetic level of control I had over Windows (I don't think I'd even used C++ because Visual Studio was too intimidating), then it certainly would not be worth it.

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Re: Linux's downfalls (IMO)

Postby flying sheep » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:35 pm UTC

that’s exactly how i felt. now using linux for less than 2 years and i have no fear from compiling my own stuff (i i need to: currently i only use a self-compiled ktikz)

i started using linux because someone told me it’s easier to start programming with, and he was right. for the first weeks i tried programming on both systems, but linux was so much nicer to me…


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