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      1 ---
      2 title: "You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat it Too With GNU/Linux Distributions"
      3 date: 2021-08-20
      4 draft: false
      5 ---
      6 
      7 The reason that "The Year of The 'Linux Desktop'" is mostly a meme and
      8 thrown around as a buzzword in blogs is because we fundamentally
      9 misunderstand the meaning of the phrase 'Linux Desktop'. The 'Linux
     10 Desktop' as most people think of it is a myth and something that will
     11 never happen, not because the open model of the Free Software desktop
     12 isn't viable, but rather because most have the wrong idea of how a
     13 desktop that affords you freedom should be.
     14 
     15 Tell me if you've heard an anecdote of this type somewhere:
     16 
     17 _...So I went to try out Linux, mostly because I was sick of
     18 $PROPRIETARYOS. I installed $POPULARDISTRIBUTION since the desktop
     19 looked nice and people said it was 'easy'. I had to do a weird thing
     20 to get my graphics working, but I followed a guide online so it was
     21 O.K. I was smooth sailing, until
     22 about a week ago when a system update broke my graphics. I don't know
     23 what happened, but I went back to $PROPRIETARYOS because it never
     24 breaks like that. Guess Linux isn't ready for 'prime-time' yet._
     25 
     26 _Hmm... What could have happened? It broke during an update? Jeez,
     27 these distribution maintainers are awfully irresponsible for not being
     28 able to maintain a system that "works"._
     29 
     30 It's understandable for a new GNU/Linux user to be confused that a
     31 component of his operating system seemed to have stopped
     32 working. However, notice the order of things that happened.
     33 
     34 + A user picks a distribution filled with pre-loaded software and
     35 configuration,
     36 + The user has a special case where they need to change a default
     37 configuration to suit their needs,
     38 + This modification was the probable cause of some trouble brewing outside
     39 of the user's awareness, and so he chalks it up to lack of polish.
     40 
     41 A key difference between a proprietary operating system and one that
     42 affords you freedom is the fact that you have the ability to choose
     43 how your computer works, and change any aspect you'd like. For some
     44 reason, though, distribution projects pride themselves on piling on as
     45 much of their own configuration into the disk image as possible, for
     46 the _out of the box_ experience.
     47 
     48 Issues usually come about when you then try to change something about
     49 your system. What's fine and dandy at first turns into a maintenance nightmare when
     50 you're trying to figure out what those default configurations are, and
     51 you suddenly need to distinguish between general-purpose software
     52 documentation, distribution-specific documentation, and forum posts
     53 that may or may not be relevant to your problem, because you have no
     54 idea what software your computer is running, for the most part.
     55 
     56 This is the phase where most new users get too frustrated, and quit.
     57 
     58 The problem lies in wanting to have your cake and eat it too. _I want
     59 an operating system that is libre and configurable to the highest
     60 level,_ but also, _I want an operating system that makes every decision
     61 for me, except when I want to, but also never collides with my
     62 actions. It should always do what I want and never do what I don't
     63 expect._
     64 The trouble that distribution projects often come to face
     65 with is the sheer amount of directions they're being pulled into in
     66 order to appease "the user" and make sure they never have to learn
     67 anything about the software they're running. They market themselves on
     68 being "hassle-free", when it's never further from the truth with those
     69 projects. All of the sudden, you see users "distro-hopping" and
     70 getting frustrated because they can't find an image of GNU with
     71 everything they want and nothing of what they don't want.
     72 
     73 No more telling people to blindly install Mint because "it's easy and works".
     74 The standard needs to be set for users to configure their own systems,
     75 so that they can choose the software they want. At the very least, a
     76 user needs to know what programs they want to install. Less decisions
     77 made by distribution developers and more decisions made by the
     78 computer user himself. This way, a user can usually diagnose a
     79 problem with his GNU system, or change his system to his specific needs,
     80 because he knows how he's configured his computer to work. Even
     81 if they can't solve general software problems, they'll surely have a
     82 better idea of how to explain it to somebody who can. The user can get
     83 the full benefits of a GNU/Linux system without compromises for the
     84 illusion of ease.
     85 
     86 Distributions that embody this idea are usually called "minimal",
     87 but are also wrongly classified as "for advanced users" or "only if
     88 you want to know under the hood stuff"
     89 
     90 _You're an elitist! You think computer users want to live in the
     91 command line all day! I've got a job, buddy!_
     92 
     93 The thing I don't understand about this argument is that you actually
     94 _save_ time in the long-run by choosing your configuration when you
     95 install your operating system, which maybe takes an afternoon,
     96 max. You don't need to be a programmer or a command-line wiz to type a
     97 command to install your audio server. Taking the time _now_ beats
     98 taking even more time _later_ when you're doing something
     99 mission-critical and suddenly need to figure out why running 'apt
    100 upgrade' broke your special manually-installed driver. Then, once you
    101 have that configuration, it isn't like you need to re-write it every
    102 day or something. You can back it up and save it, and share it with
    103 other people. You can modify it to suit new hardware or different
    104 needs. All of the sudden, you've harnessed the power of a truly Free
    105 operating system. This is what users coming from proprietary and evil
    106 operating systems don't understand, and at no fault of their own. You
    107 can't promise a lifelong Windows user Windows if you're giving them GNU
    108 instead. They will be frustrated when they mistake design paradigm for
    109 instability.
    110 
    111 tl;dr: RTFM