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      1 # You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat it Too With GNU/Linux Distributions
      2 ## 08/20/2021
      4 The reason that "The Year of The 'Linux Desktop'" is mostly a meme and
      5 thrown around as a buzzword in blogs is because we fundamentally
      6 misunderstand the meaning of the phrase 'Linux Desktop'. The 'Linux
      7 Desktop' as most people think of it is a myth and something that will
      8 never happen, not because the open model of the Free Software desktop
      9 isn't viable, but rather because most have the wrong idea of how a
     10 desktop that affords you freedom should be.
     12 Tell me if you've heard an anecdote of this type somewhere:
     14 _...So I went to try out Linux, mostly because I was sick of
     15 $PROPRIETARYOS. I installed $POPULARDISTRIBUTION since the desktop
     16 looked nice and people said it was 'easy'. I had to do a weird thing
     17 to get my graphics working, but I followed a guide online so it was
     18 O.K. I was smooth sailing, until
     19 about a week ago when a system update broke my graphics. I don't know
     20 what happened, but I went back to $PROPRIETARYOS because it never
     21 breaks like that. Guess Linux isn't ready for 'prime-time' yet._
     23 _Hmm... What could have happened? It broke during an update? Jeez,
     24 these distribution maintainers are awfully irresponsible for not being
     25 able to maintain a system that "works"._
     27 It's understandable for a new GNU/Linux user to be confused that a
     28 component of his operating system seemed to have stopped
     29 working. However, notice the order of things that happened.
     31 + A user picks a distribution filled with pre-loaded software and
     32 configuration,
     33 + The user has a special case where they need to change a default
     34 configuration to suit their needs,
     35 + This modification was the probable cause of some trouble brewing outside
     36 of the user's awareness, and so he chalks it up to lack of polish.
     38 A key difference between a proprietary operating system and one that
     39 affords you freedom is the fact that you have the ability to choose
     40 how your computer works, and change any aspect you'd like. For some
     41 reason, though, distribution projects pride themselves on piling on as
     42 much of their own configuration into the disk image as possible, for
     43 the _out of the box_ experience.
     45 Issues usually come about when you then try to change something about
     46 your system. What's fine and dandy at first turns into a maintenance nightmare when
     47 you're trying to figure out what those default configurations are, and
     48 you suddenly need to distinguish between general-purpose software
     49 documentation, distribution-specific documentation, and forum posts
     50 that may or may not be relevant to your problem, because you have no
     51 idea what software your computer is running, for the most part.
     53 This is the phase where most new users get too frustrated, and quit.
     55 The problem lies in wanting to have your cake and eat it too. _I want
     56 an operating system that is libre and configurable to the highest
     57 level,_ but also, _I want an operating system that makes every decision
     58 for me, except when I want to, but also never collides with my
     59 actions. It should always do what I want and never do what I don't
     60 expect._
     61 The trouble that distribution projects often come to face
     62 with is the sheer amount of directions they're being pulled into in
     63 order to appease "the user" and make sure they never have to learn
     64 anything about the software they're running. They market themselves on
     65 being "hassle-free", when it's never further from the truth with those
     66 projects. All of the sudden, you see users "distro-hopping" and
     67 getting frustrated because they can't find an image of GNU with
     68 everything they want and nothing of what they don't want.
     70 No more telling people to blindly install Mint because "it's easy and works".
     71 The standard needs to be set for users to configure their own systems,
     72 so that they can choose the software they want. At the very least, a
     73 user needs to know what programs they want to install. Less decisions
     74 made by distribution developers and more decisions made by the
     75 computer user himself. This way, a user can usually diagnose a
     76 problem with his GNU system, or change his system to his specific needs,
     77 because he knows how he's configured his computer to work. Even
     78 if they can't solve general software problems, they'll surely have a
     79 better idea of how to explain it to somebody who can. The user can get
     80 the full benefits of a GNU/Linux system without compromises for the
     81 illusion of ease.
     83 Distributions that embody this idea are usually called "minimal",
     84 but are also wrongly classified as "for advanced users" or "only if
     85 you want to know under the hood stuff"
     87 _You're an elitist! You think computer users want to live in the
     88 command line all day! I've got a job, buddy!_
     90 The thing I don't understand about this argument is that you actually
     91 _save_ time in the long-run by choosing your configuration when you
     92 install your operating system, which maybe takes an afternoon,
     93 max. You don't need to be a programmer or a command-line wiz to type a
     94 command to install your audio server. Taking the time _now_ beats
     95 taking even more time _later_ when you're doing something
     96 mission-critical and suddenly need to figure out why running 'apt
     97 upgrade' broke your special manually-installed driver. Then, once you
     98 have that configuration, it isn't like you need to re-write it every
     99 day or something. You can back it up and save it, and share it with
    100 other people. You can modify it to suit new hardware or different
    101 needs. All of the sudden, you've harnessed the power of a truly Free
    102 operating system. This is what users coming from proprietary and evil
    103 operating systems don't understand, and at no fault of their own. You
    104 can't promise a lifelong Windows user Windows if you're giving them GNU
    105 instead. They will be frustrated when they mistake design paradigm for
    106 instability.
    108 tl;dr: RTFM