Defindit Docs and Howto Home

This page last modified: Apr 04 2008
title:Linux features and problems
description:My constantly growing list of problems one encounters when running Linux on the desktop. Includes some strenths, but is mostly about opportunities for improvement.

Table of contents
Linux Features
Linux Opportunities


I love Linux. It is my desktop and work and at home. We have many
Linux servers at work, and I've got a few at home. However, Linux is
far from perfect, and I am sad to say that I cannot yet recommend
Linux as a desktop for your average user. It could be the commercial
products such as Novell's SUSE and Linspire are suitable for normal
people. See my notes about SUSE below.

This document is primarly written from a Fedora-centric point of view,
but applies to all distributions (distros) of Linux. Most distros are
probably worse than Fedora Core (FC) in nearly every regard. (I don't
want to start a flame war. People I've talked to running other
distros, and forums I've seen indicate a high incidence of problems in
other distros that I've never seen in FC.) This document is frequently
updated as I discover other exciting aspects of Linux. This version
applies to Linux up through Fedora Core 6 in March 2007.

As you will see (below), the list of opportunities (aka problems) is
fairly long. The sad irony of the list of opportunities is that some
Linux guru (or a guild of gurus) is capable of solving each and every
one of these problems. With these problems fixed, and Open Office able
to read and write *all* Microsoft Office docs, Linux would rule the
world. It is possible to get nearly everything to work on a Linux
system, however, implementing a workaround for each problem can take
an hour or two (or six). At some point, you'll look at all those
wasted hours and wish you had bought an Apple OSX system, or even
Windows. As far as I can tell, everything on this list works out of
the box with both Win XP and OSX. Granted that OSX and XP have their
issues. I cannot for the life of me see how any sane person uses XP as
a server.

In an enterprise situation, Red Hat (RH) is a good OS (or even FC
which is "free", not accounting for total cost of ownership). You pay
for the RH licenses, and when there is an issue you phone Red Hat and
ask for the answer. Everything should work, and the superior power,
security, and general amenability to being administered will make Red
Hat Enterprise Linux superior to XP and OSX, even for desktop
users. However, as a home user, I'm not going to pay RH $300 per year
for their support, although given the time I've wasted searching for
and implementing workarounds for FC, it might have been worth it to
just give RH their money. It is hard to give RH $300 per year when
most of my home computers were only $500 purchased new. Even my
desktop server at work was only $2500.

Instead, when I wanted a fully functional desktop I bought an Apple
OSX machine (Intel Core-Duo no less!). Aside from minor glitches, the
Mac Mini and OSX have been a stellar success in my home. I resisted
OSX for many years, but in the end, problems with Linux forced me to
buy an Apple. (I have not avoided Apple for lack of knowledge about
the computers and operating systems. Starting in 1983 was I a
Macintosh evangelist. Apple eventually managed to drive me away with
horrible bugs, lack of innovation, and outlandish prices. I'm happy to
say that OSX has brought me back.)

SUSE notes (2008)

- OpenSUSE downloads are at:

- Novell's ( server seems fast and as far as I
  can tell has great bandwidth. At work I was getting around 6MB to 9MB
  (megabytes) per second. The entire DVD iso downloaded in around 20
  minutes. The servers for other Linux distros are often slow.

- SUSE has a hardware compatibility guide.

  It seems up-to-date. This is great. When you need a modem, ethernet
  card, or even a new digital camera consult the guide. Instead of
  wasting hours Googling or searching user reviews for the
  word "linux", just go to one comprehensive guide. If only Fedora
  would do this.

- The Novell pre-sales phone operators are very nice. And about 95%
  ignorant about SUSE and Linux. They can answer rudimentary questions
  which they apparently read from the Novell web site.

- Novell doesn't understand Linux or Linux users (or else I don't
  understand my own needs and those of my Linux peers: it's
  possible). If you want a Linux that is a desktop with some server
  abliites like being able to run Apache, you have to use
  OpenSUSE. The Novell Enterprise Linux options are either server
  without desktop features (like music players) or desktops with no
  server abilities. 

- Depending on how you enter the Novell site, Novell makes you
  register and login. When you finally get to the OpenSUSE download,
  it is outside the registration-only area. Novell marketing managers
  are nitwits trying to gather user information which ends up being

- You can purchase "installation support" for OpenSUSE for 90
  days. Nothing about support for stuff that doesn't work, or that you
  decide to install after 90 days.

- The community support seems a little better than other Linux
  distributions. However, If Novell would dedicate just a small team
  to writing howto docs and work arounds, they could rule the Linux
  world. Many of us who are experienced Linux sysadmins would be
  *happy* to write docs if we could just get a clear answer from
  people inside Novell who (we imagine) know everything about SUSE. 

- It appears that if you want to install OpenSUSE via ftp or http from
  your local LAN, you'll have to figure that out on your own. This
  would be the case where you put the install .iso files on a server,
  then boot the destination machine with a CD, and set up the
  destination machine to do the install from the ftp or http (or NFS)
  server. It may not be possible. Novell has a guide for a network
  install across the *internet*. That would be a nightmare. An install
  across a 1mbps DSL would take ages.  If you don't know, a network
  install across your own business or home 100mbps network is really,
  really nice. It is at least as fast as installing from CD and
  there's no disk swap. I've done this several times with Fedora, and
  it works great.

- Given that I'm happy with Fedora, why try SUSE? The Wacom
  tablet. After hours of Googling I still can't find a good set of
  instructions for getting the tablet working. It might work easily
  with SUSE, and there are some instructions on their community web
  site. If it doesn't work, I'll pay the $50 for installation support
  and call them on the phone. 

Linux Features

- The Linux desktop has all kinds of marvelous flexibility for the
  window and button styles, all configured via a lovely graphical
  control panel.

- yum and rpm repositories are wonderful. This applies mostly to
  Fedora Core. The repositories are convenient, well mirrored, have
  auto-failover if a site is down, include all the system software,
  also include optional "extras", and makes it easy to add important
  third party repositories such as Livna. Updates work very
  well. Finding packages is a problem for users who are not advanced,
  but the solution is easy, if obscure. Also, you must run the
  updates/installs as root. The solution to finding packages is: su to
  root, i/o redirect yum --list into a file, then grep (case
  insensitive) for a package name. Here are typical commands:

su -l root
yum --list all > yum_list.txt
grep -i xmms yum_list.txt

- The desktop give you many choices of look at feel. You can have
  something unique to Linux, or you can have a Win XP clone, or
  something that looks and works much like the Apple Finder.

- Full support for the 3 button mouse, including some convenient
  copy/paste features. (Sadly, these features are offset to some
  extent by some un-features, but overall it is good). 

- Linux is great as a server. It is very stable, easy to administer
  for the common tasks, secure, regularly updated, and the quality of
  the software is very high. This includes web servers, database
  servers, and email servers. Some distributions of Linux/Unix have
  weaknesses in NFS and Samba, but over all, Linux and/or Unix also
  make very good file servers. 

- Linux is secure. The operating system is difficult to attack from
  outside the machine, and there are many available mechanisms to
  prevent elevated privilege by users. Fedora Core and some othe
  distros implement SELinux, created by the Department of Defense and
  made public with the express intention of creating a very secure
  operating system.

- Linux is good for remote work. Because nearly all aspects of
  software development can be done on Linux with character based
  tools, only SSH is required to access a Linux server. No VPN or
  wacky tunneling. SSH is robust, very secure, and fast. SSH clients
  exist for all platforms (Linux, Win, OSX, etc.). For users who want
  a full desktop export, the can use VNC via SSH or X windows via SSH
  for a secure connection that doesn't require extra software or any
  extra configuration on routers, ports, or servers. SSH handles
  tunneling the VNC or X connection between your client and the

- Linux has the best command line shell (bash). This may sound wacky,
  but bash is mostly easier and faster to use than a Graphical User
  Interface (GUI) file interface. There are some small nice features,
  and one huge feature: tab complete. At the shell, type what you know
  (which could be nothing) and press tab once or twice. Bash will
  offer you a list of possible completions. This means that you can
  change directory to /home/ms3k/public_html/my_web_project with a
  very small number of keystrokes, and since bash is completing the
  choice for you, typos are nearly eliminated. I realize that using
  bash can take some tutorial time, but the same is true of Macintosh
  OSX's Finder or the Win XP desktop. Try to move a file (not copy) to
  a different folder on the Mac. I've been using a Macintosh since
  1983 and I still can't remember that operation. Here's a better one:
  on OSX or Windows try to move a file to a different folder and give
  the file a different name at the same time. Not possible. The
  learning curve on bash isn't as bad as most Linux apps. Now that
  I've got tab complete in bash (and in some places on emacs) I keep
  trying to use it in Firefox on URLs. Of course that doesn't work. I
  have seen some file dialog boxes that support tab complete (yay!),
  but most don't. Frustrating.

- Linux has world class desktop software for word processing,
  spreadsheets, presentations, photo retouching and pixel drawing,
  vector drawing, web browsing, email, instant messaging, and play
  back of music. 

- Image manipulation with Gimp is wonderful. Gimp is reasonably easy
  to use, has a nice web site with tutorials, and is packed with

- Some of the CD and DVD stuff is pretty cool, even though most of it
  is pretty obscure and difficult. Joerg Schilling has written CD and
  DVD software for Linux. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

- I get to choose my window/control style (not possible with OSX or
  Win XP). Under KDE I can set windows to not have borders when
  maximized. KDE does not create new windows off the screen or under
  the task bar (Apple OSX will gladly create windows partially off
  screen, and regularly tucks part of a window under the Dock where
  you can't click.) All my windows are grouped by application in the
  task bar (apparently not possible on OSX). Alt-tab cycles through
  all windows (not possible with standard OSX apps; might work with
  non-Apple extensions). I can configure the clock in my task bar to
  include the date (apparently not possible with OSX). KDE (and most
  Linux desktops) have a "Start" button, and it can be configured with
  whatever items one wishes (OSX has no start button or an

- Linux has great support for 64 bit and SMP. Directories on the disk
  can have very large numbers of files (tens of thousands; this
  probably isn't a good idea, but it works). There are features in
  bash and other Linux utilities that make it possible to manage these
  files. From personal experience, large numbers of files in OSX and
  Win XP cause serious problems.

Linux Opportunities

- A fairly simple Perl script written specfically to use large amounts
  of RAM and CPU can still hang a Linux system. This seems to be a
  fundamental flaw in the kernel scheduling algorithm. MS Windows is
  worse, but that's no excuse. In spite of this (apparent) flaw in
  Linux, my servers still have very high availability (I don't deploy
  code which attacks my machines.) Nonetheless, this is still odd
  shortcoming for a modern operating system.

- In March 2007 I prepared a Fedora Core 6 install for a friend as a
  simple desktop. The machine needed Firefox, modem dialing ability,
  and Flash. Elapsed time to install and configure: 5 hours. The first
  hour wasted was due to Anaconda (the Red Hat and Fedora installer)
  crashing due to some problem using the AGP video card. The kernel
  panic didn't indicate a video problem, seaching Google was not very
  helpful, and I determined the final agp=off solution mostly via
  trial and error. Once the install worked, it only took 30 minutes.
  Anaconda crashed when I checked "Fedora Extras", so I had to re-do
  the first part of the install. Right after install I had to run an
  update (as it always the case with any modern OS install). I'm not
  counting time the computer spent working, just time I spent typing
  and clicking. Another hour went into setting up the desktop and
  disabling unused daemons (mostly to save RAM; this machine only has
  256Mb of RAM). An hour was used getting games. The yum group "Games
  and Entertainment" is mostly optional packages. Yum doesn't have a
  way to automatically install optional packages as a group. I gave
  up, and hand installed a couple of what seemed to be larger game
  packages. The next hour was spent an hour trying to get the
  auto-login to work (KDE desktop with Gnome's window manager; the
  Gnome login manager has some issues). Another hour was wasted
  finding out what kind of modem was in the computer, (Conexant chip
  set) and what solution existed for that modem (
  Another hour was spent setting up and testing an ActionTec modem I
  happened to have laying around unused. I never did use the internal
  Conexant wintel modem. The ActionTec Dual PC modem is one of the
  coolest things I've ever seen. 

- By default KPPP (the modem connection tool) requires the root
  password. The KPPP documentation being obtuse, addresses the problem
  of granting access as "Restricting access to KPPP". If you read the
  section about "restricting" access you find information on
  "allowing" access. The file /etc/kppp.allow does not exist by

# /etc/kppp.allow
# comment lines like this are ignored
# as well as empty lines


  This process must have been confusing to other people who used
  alternative methods to solve the problem:

- Linux people love to sneer at memory use under Windows. Ha!
  (sarcastic laughter) My FC6 X Windows process is using 200MB (VSS,
  only about 45MB of RSS). Just one process. That's really nasty on a
  machine with only 256MB of RAM. Heaven only knows what X is doing
  with all the RAM. I changed the screen res to 1024x768. No change. I
  changed the bit depth to 16. No change. I searched Google for an
  hour. Most of the X Windows pages are from 5 or 10 years ago. Nice
  (not). People say, "Rely on the open source community to answer your
  questions." That's a joke. Have you noticed how many questions in
  forums have no answer? It is an embarrassment to the Linux world. At
  least the forum moderators could delete the 5 year old questions
  with not a single response. X Windows seems to work fine, but my
  poor machine starts swapping with only a few apps open. I guess I'll
  waste more hours trying to switch window managers to see if that is
  the problem. (Switching to XFCE didn't help much. I already had
  disabled as many KDE "features" as possible. KDE with the extra services
  disabled -- from the control panel -- is essentially as "slender" as
  XFCE. Go figure.)

- Wintel modems under Linux are nearly impossible to get working. This
  wouldn't be so bad except that the Linux community has been unable
  to list the working "normal" modems. It isn't clear if the
  commercial versions (Red Hat, Suse, Linspire, etc.) supply a full
  set of drivers including known drivers for Wintel modems.

- It is common for a Fedora update to be several hundred megabytes
  (this is probably true for all distros). In March 2007 I installed
  FC6, and immediately ran an update: 425 MB. This would be a serious
  problem for someone on a dial up (phone, modem) line. There doesn't
  appear to be a way to create a set of "update" CDs (or DVD) for
  Fedora or any other distro. At a constant 4 Kbytes per second, 425
  MB is more than 24 hours of online download time. By the way, this
  was a fairly minimal FC6 install. If you are on a dial up line,
  you will want to take your computer to a location (friend, work)
  with broadband to run you updates. The Linux world has not provided
  a disk-based update method.

- Windows has IE. You pretty much can't get rid of it. Well, KDE and
  Gnome has Evolution, and you pretty much can't get rid of it. Be my
  guest: search Google for "fedora uninstall evolution". I tried to
  get yum to remove it, and yum wanted to take out half my system. I
  don't use Evolution, and and after a frustrating 30 or 40 minutes of
  "research" in Google, I discovered killev that will get rid of the
  danged Evilution (ha! that was a typo, but it's funny!) daemon. But
  there's a rub: Firefox still wants to launch Evilution everytime I
  click an email link from one of my accounts (but not from my other
  account). What's up with that? I've grep'd my dot files/directories
  for "evolution" (case insensitive, of course). Nada. More wasted
  time, and no solution found. So I just right click the email links,
  "copy email address", and go over to Thunderbird and manually create
  a new email. Not really a big deal, but it is stupid. This could be
  a reason to go over to XFCE, but I'm not sure that even XFCE can be
  run without some dependency somewhere for Evilution.

- Evolution needs man pages, and needs management tools. Once the
  evolution daemon gets started, it is very, very difficult to find
  out how to kill it... because there is no documentation.

- Evolution should not be the default email for Gnome. Evolution is
  too invasive, large, confusing, poorly documented, and totally

- The man page for the bonobo-activation-server is a joke. How do I
  kill it and make sure it never starts again? The answer is pretty
  simple: KDE

- Why is there always seem to be at least one instance of gconfd
  running even though I use KDE? Can I kill these vestigial instances
  of gconfd? The gconftool-2 man page is also pretty much of a joke.

- KDE has plenty of odd little daemons, but at least there is a way to
  stop them and make sure they never start again.

- There are many programs (especially daemons) that have no man page.

- Open Office (aka or OOo) does not display and print
  documents identical to the display and printing in MS Word. Many
  documents are fine, but I've noticed a greater trend for people to
  create documents using text block and boxes (by the way, this is a
  nasty, abhorrent trend). OOo not displaying (and printing) identical
  to MS Office is a huge show stopper for many people. It is
  particularly bad with documents that are formatted to be a single
  page. This may improve when Microsoft and OOo begin to use the same,
  open, standard, document file format. However, given the Microsoft's
  track record for breaking standards, and the many issues Linux has
  with technologies such as fonts, I am pessimistic about the outcome.

- Something weird occasionally happens when dragging the mouse to
  select text. In applications as diverse as Thunderbird, Emacs, and
  Konsole, the selection starts, but sometimes when the highlighted
  region reaches the bottom of the window, the selection swiches
  context and tries to drag the window border. Or sometimes the
  selection switches to the opposite (it select towards the top of the
  document instead of towards the bottom where my cursor is
  placed). This has been going on for years with KDE and Fedora.

- There is still no decent wysiwyg HTML editor (web editor) for
  Linux. All the products I've tried under Linux have one or more very
  serious, show-stopper category bugs.  NVU is a good start on a web
  page editor, however development has ceased. No web editor for Linux
  is a showstopper.

- Movie editing is so bizarre under Linux that I am unable to
  understand what to install and what it will do. 

- One time, a few year ago I tried to capture digitized sound from my
  sound card. I was even using a fairly new (at that time)
  SoundBlaster card (as opposed to the on-board sound chip). It was
  horrible. The sound was low quality and full of drop outs. As usual
  with Linux, it is not clear what applications will save digitized
  sound, what these applications are, and how one gets them working.

- Support for drawing tablets is weird and partial. It seems possible
  to get it working, but requires hacking some of the X windows
  config, and there is more config necessary inside Gimp. I still have not
  been able to get the Gimp stuff 100% working. FC3 was horrible for
  the tablet. FC5 is pretty good. There are rumors that "it just
  works" under FC6, but I have not tried it.

- CUPS is still nearly impossible to work with. As of 2007 I can say
  it is better than before, but "before" is was impossible. I've spent
  hours pouring over documentation and editing config files and still
  often could not get printing to work. With CUPS I spend hours and it
  usually works. The http config built into CUPS is a flaming pile of
  compost. Sure, it will set up a printer, but loads of the other
  config simply isn't supported via the web interface. For instance,
  it doesn't have a setting that allows other machines to browse the
  queue names. In fact, I can't find such a setting in the KDE CUPS
  config GUI either.

  More on CUPS. The morning of March 7, 2007 I need to set up my FC6
  machine at work to print. First I try the KDE control center. When
  scanning the subnet, a dialog box comes up to warn that I'm about to
  scan a subnet that my machine isn't on, but also kcontrol (whatever
  that is) also puts up the same warning on top of the dialog box (and
  you must click in the kcontrol box to make it go away). More stupid
  Linux tricks. I ignore the dialog box bugs. I select a driver. Then
  the system tells me it cannot create a temporary printer. So I skip
  the test, and at the end it says it cannot create the printer. No
  reasons given. I go over to the CUPS web interface, find logs, and
  discover that the logs are full of messages about not being able to
  connect to the "system bus". Dbus is running. Never heard of a
  "system bus". I Google the error and find one unanswered question in
  a Linux newsgroup. Instead I add the printer via the CUPS web
  interface (If you are a Linux sysadmin you will know the URL is
  http://localhost:631/ ). That works, but the printer URI has to be
  manually entered. Network TCP printers are socket:// and use port
  9100. Finally it works. Even the test pages work. Then I print a
  test document which happens to be A4. Ever after kpdf thinks that
  all documents are printed on A4.

  After that I decide to try to reproduce some of these errors by
  adding a second printer. This time the KDE printer control says
  "Unable to load the requested driver: Unable to create the Foomatic
  driver [HP-LaserJet_4250,Postscript]. Either that driver does not
  exist, or you don't have the required permissions to perform that
  operation." Why did it offer my a printer driver that doesn't exist?
  That's a new bug. I try loading other drivers. Here is another error
  I got: "Unable to load the requested driver:
  1): syntax error, unexpected OPTION". This could be because I'm
  running the control panel as a normal user, and not as root. Try it
  as root (administrator mode). Same first error. Try another
  driver. Similar second error: "Unable to load the requested driver:
  2): syntax error, unexpected OPTION, expecting KEYWORD". Linux will
  not become the desktop of choice if it cannot print. 

- CUPS print jobs never go away. There is no way to really cancel a
  failed job. You can get CUPS to stop working on it, but CUPS won't
  tell the printer to cancel. That is really ugly when the a buggy
  driver is printing pages of garbage on the printer. Once finished,
  the cups jobs stay in the GUI view. No way to get rid of
  them. (Well, I suspect that if you su to root and go hunting in
  /var/spool you'll find the list. As far as I can tell, this isn't in
  the docs, and besides who wants to su to root to clean up last year's
  print jobs?)

- What is the minimum requirement on the server and client to run NFS?
  I've spent hours sifting through documentation and I still don't
  know. Apparently you should start portmap and the rpc daemons on the
  client manually (semi manually - chkconfig), even though netfs will
  start them. The don't necessarily shutdown properly if netfs does
  the starting. What is netfs anyway? It has a one sentence
  description if you read its source code (it is a shell script), but
  that single sentence isn't too helpful. Even worse, try to find out
  why portmap complains about a lost connection to the server during
  shutdown, after the network has been turned off. There's nothing in
  the NFS logs on the client or server, but if one tries to reboot the
  machine, there will be obscure messages in the NFS server
  /var/log/messages about lost connections. If one waits a certain
  amount of time (between one and five minutes) things are fine. The
  problem went away on FC6 where more daemons are running, and netfs
  is *not* being used. Solutions to these problems would include:
  documentation, examples, log files.

- Flash is always old and behind the Apple Macintosh OSX and Windows
  XP versions. This isn't directly the fault of the Linux community,
  but it is a huge headache.

- It is usually a bad idea to upgrade from one version of Fedora Core
  to another. About half the time the upgrade fails in that the
  upgraded system either will not boot, or has very serious
  problems. You should do a fresh install, not an upgrade.
  Unfortunately, a fresh install requires reformatting your hard

- Partitions and /home. Fedora Core wants to completely wipe out any
  Linux partitions with system software during an
  upgrade. Unfortunately, the default configuration is to put the home
  directory partition on the same partition as root. This means that
  when you upgrade to a new version (about every 12 to 18 months)
  you will have to restore your home directory from a backup. The
  solution is somewhat complex for the end user and involves creating
  a new logical volume on a separate partition. It took me a hour or
  so to get this working (due to lack of docs and lack of examples). I
  have not upgraded this particular FC installtion yet, so I'm not
  sure what will happen. Due to partition issues and other headaches,
  for my home installation I keep our home directories on an NFS
  server. However, that isn't useful to non Linux sysadmins due to the
  complexity of setup and admin. It could be simplified and made
  robust, but the Linux world doesn't seem to care.

- Fedora Core uses the Logical Volume Manager (LVM). This apparently
  has advantages for managing disks and partitions, but it has a near
  total lack of useful documentation and examples. The command line
  admin tools are obscure even by Linux standards. 

- Disk Druid is use to partition, control LVM and maybe even format
  disk partitions from Anaconda, the Fedora and Red Hat
  installer. Disk Druid has some nifty features, however, I am unable
  to find a stand alone copy of Disk Druid. Apparently it simply
  doesn't exist, nor does documentation. It looks like Disk Druid
  would be a nice GUI LVM manager, but alas, one can't find, install,
  or run it. 

- One time in ten years I had a corrupt rpm repository database. I don't even
  know how it happened, but it had something to do with yum. This was
  a huge problem, and took hours to clean up. 

- GTKpod claims to support the iPod. There is no documentation, and
  after 30 minutes of non-function between my machine and GTKpod, I
  gave up. Part of the problem was that my machine didn't fully
  connect to the iPod. I was never clear how CDs get ripped and then
  moved on to the iPod. Since there are no docs, I can't tell if
  GTKpod rips or requires an external ripper. Solution: buy an Apple
  Mac Mini (there are additional Linux deficiencies which compelled me
  to buy the Mac Mini). You are wondering why I have an iPod instead
  of an Ogg enabled player: it was a gift. Besides, I've looked at the
  Ogg player market. Totally confusing, just like the Linux world. And
  prices of Ogg players don't look that compelling. And even if I had
  an Ogg player, will I just be able to drag my m3u files over? Not
  likely. I'll have to separately drag over each album's m3u and the
  directory tree with the album and songs (since paths in m3u are
  relative to the location of the m3u). Yet another huge mess.

- Fedora Core installs a raft of daemons. Daemons are little helper
  applications that run in the background. They consume little or no
  CPU, and little memory. However, there are a dozen or or more of
  these things, and many of them are 100% undocumented. Others are
  installed even on systems that clearly cannot use them. Fedora Core
  comes with a very long list of enabled daemons, regardless of what
  the hardware is capable of. On the WWW you will find out-of-date
  lists of the daemons (including my list) since new daemons are added
  constantly. Here are some examples: When I have an AMD processor,
  why is the Intel microcode daemon installed and running? Irqbalance
  is always on but can only be used by multi processor
  systems. Sendmail is always on, but I'm guessing 99% of desktop
  users don't use it. At least two readahead_* daemons are on, but
  their utility is unclear, and they are probably a bad idea on
  systems that don't have huge amounts of ram. Atd is always enabled,
  but I've never seen a system (server or desktop) that used it. FC6
  defaults to Bluetooth enabled, but none of my computers have
  Bluetooth hardware. Kudzu seems enabled, but for the last few
  version of FC, Kudzu is either useless or breaks other features. As
  far as I can tell, there is no end-user GUI for controlling the
  daemons, so the user must login as root and run chkconfig to set the
  daemons not to start in the future. A separate step is required to
  actually stop running instances of the daemons.

- Firefox and Thunderbird use GTK, and as a result ignore the font
  choices of KDE. You must install the GTK engine. This adds a control
  panel to the KDE Control Center Appearance & Themes. Use the new
  control panel to tell GTK apps to use KDE's font choices. There are
  dozens (hundreds?) of issues like this with Linux, and there is no
  collection of documents listing these issues and the work arounds. 

- Fonts are a mess. They often render poorly. Not all applications can
  use all fonts. The sizes are difficult to manage. Heaven help you if
  you switch from screen resolution 1024x768 to 1280x1024 and want to
  increase your fonts sizes to be legible. (The font sizes are given
  in points, and that is an absolute, however, the point size seems to
  change depending on screen resolution. Higher screen resolution
  results in the same point size being smaller. Either I'm losing my
  mind or there is a fundamental flaw in X Windows font management.)
  System fonts are separate from application specific fonts. There is
  no central control for fonts (or at least not a central control I
  can find). All the fonts come in different dot-per-inch (dpi)
  resolutions, but it isn't clear which one to use. I have managed to
  get my application fonts to be legible at 1024x760, but some of the
  dialog boxes simply have no adjustment. Some of the font browsers
  (applications to view and choose fonts) are nice, and some are
  really crude and confusing. Many of the font issues are specific to
  various applications, which are indirectly Linux issues. However,
  one can deduce that the underlying font system is so nasty that
  otherwise capable application developers are unable to get fonts
  working consistently.

- Linux sound systems are a snarled disaster. Out of the box FC uses
  aRTs to run ALSA. With FC6 KMix did not to effect left right
  balance. My system was running ALSA (so it claimed) and KMix claimed
  to support ALSA. There was no indication of why balance didn't
  work. The control moved, but the sound did not change. Tracking down
  the problem with KMix and the left-right balance was a typical Linux
  problem solving scenario. Since KMix left-right balance did not
  work, I checked yum to see if there see if there were other aRTs
  tools. Sure enough there was artsmixergui in Fedora Extras. I
  installed and ran it. It defaulted to separate left and right
  controls (split) for each control. (I recollect that it fixed the
  balance, but it had other new problems not present in KMix.)  I had
  an "ah ha!" moment.  Perhaps KMix has such a feature. Right-clicking
  on KMix controls revealed that they can be split (to the credit of
  KMix this feature is mentioned in the handbook). This enabled me to
  give each channel (via PCM) different balance. It also showed part
  of the reason the left-right balance did not work: balance changes
  the strength of the master volume. KMix master volume does not work
  on my system. Master volume has no effect. I still don't know why,
  but since I can set the left-right PCM, I don't really care. Time
  wasted: only one hour.

- FC6 ALSA sound won't allow Flash animations in Firefox to have sound
  if XMMS has been playing music. The Flash movie plays fine, but without
  sounds. I have seen setups where XMMS and Flash would simultaneously
  use the sound system without problems, however, I don't know how I
  managed to get that working. [Resolved: This was a bug in the early
  release of the Linux Flash player.]

- Turning off all KDE sounds was a challenge. This falls under the
  category of "notifications". I think I chose options such as "visual
  notification" or "none" and "apply to all applications" until KDE
  stopped beeping. KDE notifications usually wait until the current
  application using sounds (XMMS playing music) stops, then the sounds
  system plays all the pending beeps. That's irritating and useless.

- The aRTs (bizarre capitalization) tools are apparently useless. The
  volume slider doesn't work. None of these tools seem to be used for
  anything, but these same tools have been included in the default
  install since early versions of FC. 

- Sensors are often tricky to get working. If they work at all,
  generally you only get CPU temperature and maybe CPU fan
  speed. Motherboard temperature and system temperature are often not
  available. I'm grateful that Linux has the lm_sensors package, but
  it is difficult to understand, and appears to be very limited in its
  capabilities. I have never been able to understand how to get
  lm_sensors integrated with the KDE sensor and hardware monitor

- No MPEG4 support from the standard yum repositories. There used to
  be support from Livna, but this disappeared around January 2007.

- No mp3 support out of the box. Readily available from Livna. Granted
  that Red Hat can't package up an MP3 library (due to patent
  restrictions), but the MP3 stub should give URLs for the real thing.

- The best music player is XMMS, and it is not installed by
  default. I've tried the other music players, and mostly they crashed
  or failed to work. I realize that they are improved all the time,
  but xmms has always worked.

- FC6 xmms has a problem playing mp3 files. First, you have to enable
  the yum repository. Install the xmms-mp3 package. In xmms
  disable the stupid RH mp3 placeholder and enable the xmms-mp3
  input. Now you'll discover that mp3 files still don't play if you
  are using the ALSA output. With aRTs the songs don't play either,
  but xmms cycles through the song. Apparently, if you choose to use
  OSS or eSound then the combination of xmms and mp3 will (maybe?)
  work. However, other things like the Flash player will be
  broken. There are rumors that the "real" xmms works. You have to
  remove xmms (via rpm or yum) and get the current xmms from
  (or Sourceforge or where ever xmms currently has it's home).

- The X Windows clipboard is a joke (this includes the KDE and Gnome
  clipboards). I use Clipper with KDE to overcome some issues. It is
  common for items copied in one application not to be in the paste
  buffer for other applications, even though Clipper has the item
  checked as the default paste. Generally, choosing the item again in
  Clipper makes the item available to all applications. However,
  sometimes I must paste the item into Firefox or Thunderbird as a
  workaround to make the clipboard item available to other

- Select-direct-to-clipboard may have been a good idea a really long
  time ago with early, crude X Windows systems, but it is a bad idea
  with a modern GUI. Select direct makes it impossible to "replace
  selection by pasting". So, Linux users are forced to copy (item 1),
  select (item 2 to be replace), delete, go to the clipboard (Clipper)
  and re-select item 1, return to application, paste.

- Some versions of Red Hat and Fedora Core required Gnome to complete
  the first boot. This was a serious problem if the user had opted to
  use KDE and not install Gnome.

- Gnome with Fedora Core 6 (FC6) locked up. This is yet another
  episode in the continuing saga of Why I Don't Use Gnome.

- Gnome is still the default (as of FC6), in spite of it using more
  memory and being less stable than KDE.

- Automount and HAL seem to conspire together to prevent CDs from
  being mounted or ejected. I have been unable to eject the CD from
  Grip or the eject command with most versions of Fedora. Disabling
  automount/autofs/HAL (or some combination) seems to have helped.

- Until FC6, Grip could not rip music CDs with a data track. XCDRoast
  usually could read the music tracks, and could write these tracks
  back to a CD which Grip could read. This is odd. I am under the
  impression that Grip and XCDRoast both rely on cdda2wav for
  ripping. I really love Grip. The issue with data tracks (and CD
  eject) have been the only problems I've had with Grip. 

- DVD burning and copying is almost unsupported. The standard tools
  with Fedora are either incapable of burning DVDs or the
  documentation is so horrible that even Linux system administrators
  (sysadmins) are unable to make it work. 

- Oddly, I don't think that there is commercial DVD software for
  Linux. I would gladly pay for something since the alternative is
  literally dozens of hours of wasted time.

- XCDRoast seems to be the only reliable CD/DVD burning software,
  however, it also is not part of the default FC install.  Even
  XCDRoast requires the cdrecord-ProDVD package that isn't available
  via yum.

- FC5 had a version of cdrecord-ProDVD that didn't work with XCDRoast
  to read data CDs. On several occasions I put a data CD in the drive,
  and XCDRoast thought it was a music CD, and refused to read the CD
  as data. It was not possible to copy the data CD as a music CD (I

- I never have been able to find a way to read a .iso file from a data
  CD. This seems to also be a problem under OSX and Win XP. However,
  with Linux and FC this is a big problem when I want to copy the
  installation CDs onto a hard drive and do network installs (which is
  faster and more reliable). There is an obscure option using dd, I
  may be able to do something with readcd.

  This seems like a not uncommon problem. Most of us don't have enough
  bandwidth at home to download 3 or 4 gigabytes that comprise the FC
  distro, so we get CDs and bring them home.

- The hardware guides need to be updated. PCMCIA in particular has a
  hardware guide that doesn't match it's own config files.

- The Linux world (and the world in general) is full of mailing lists
  and forums with unanswered questions. I suppose this isn't so much a
  failing of Linux as a failure of forum/email list moderators. If the
  open source community wants Linux to succeed, they would help the
  cause by deleting unanswered questions from email list web pages and

- Linux needs a knowledgebase of problems and solutions. Contrary to
  what open source advocates say, forums are not a substitute for
  support. All documentation should have both examples, and the steps
  necessary to verify that something is working.

- Every error message needs to be explained somewhere. Fedora needs a
  unified list of all error mesages, each with a hint how to fix the

- KDE and Gnome documentation is (mostly) a joke. I have never, ever
  seen an error message explained in the documentation. I tried to run
  a Gnome movie player and it said I needed to install
  something. Nothing in the documentation hints at what I need to
  install or where to get it. In fact, the movie player documentation
  doesn't even hint that anything can be installed.

- Here's a small, but typical KDE issue: launch feed back runs for N
  seconds unless the application launches in less than N seconds. Not
  much of a problem when things work properly. However, about 5% of
  the time there's an update, Firefox won't restart. New Firefox
  chokes on the .prefs of old Firefox. The launch feedback runs for 30
  seconds even though Firefox failed to launch in less than 1
  second. The launch feedback is sort of just glued on, and not well
  glued on either. The taskbar is funny too. First the icon shows up,
  then the icon disappears, the machine grinds away, and finally the
  application opens the the taskbar icon returns. What's up with that?
  Wacky. I've resolved to disable launch feedback in lieu of a CPU
  meter applet. When I launch a big app like Firefox or Thunderbird,
  the CPU meter is a good indicator that something is happening. You
  may be wondering "Why does this guy care about launch feedback?" See
  the next item.

- Applications that don't launch don't give any feedback. Sometimes an
  actual segmentation fault will pop up a dialog box, but I don't
  think I've ever seen one from Firefox or Thunderbird. After an
  upgrade I've had missing applications like XMMS. Choosing it from
  the start menu results in... nothing. Linux is still clearly
  intended for Linux sys admins who launch a terminal window when
  there is a problem. 

- Installing FC6 on a machine with an AGP graphics card crashed the
  installer very badly. It created a "kernel panic" before the
  installer even got going. This happened even in text mode. Oddly,
  the initial FC6 menus were ok. Searching Google with some parts of
  the kernel panic dump seemed to indicate that kernel parameters were
  required. This is a non-starter for normal people (yet another sign
  that Linux is not ready for the "desktop" of non-Linux
  sysadmins). It turns out that I needed to type this in the installer

linux graphical agp=off

  This was interesting. This solution came frmo obscure hints from the
  web, and some trial and error. I spent at least 30 minutes looking
  through Google for documentation of the kernel parameters, and found
  nothing. I've looked before. Apparently, the kernel parameters are
  secret, although I've needed them to get about 25% of my Fedora
  installations working. The kernel panic said something about
  APIC. Paramters that did not work: noapic, noacpi, noprobe,

  When the installer set up grub, it did not include agp=off in the
  command line. In retrospect, there was probably a place for me to
  enter this during the install.

  Even though I got a graphical install, the first screen (media
  check) was rendered in curses (quasi-graphical text) without mouse
  support. Tabbing between items, and hitting return is somewhat odd,
  especially for normal people.

- Checking the "Extras" yum repository checkbox in the FC6 installer
  crashed the installation. That was 15 minutes of lost time since I
  had to restart the process from scratch. The installer should be
  more carefully and completely tested. It should never crash, and
  needs above average error handling. I've never seen a Windows
  installer crash (although I'm sure it happens). I've seen the Red
  Hat / Fedora "Anaconda" installer crash on many occasions. 

- What is "insecure" in /etc/exports? It is mentioned in the man page
  for exports, and has to do with using low port numbers. The docs
  fail to mention when or why one would use this. It turns out that
  Apple OSX needs it when OSX is the client and Linux is the NFS
  server. Linux needs better documentation and more examples.

- Why does the FC6 time default to "System time uses UTC"? Sure, the
  machine knows your timezone, and will gladly calculate an offset,
  but if you hit a time server, does the time server know your
  timezone? Algorithmic time zone data could be incorrect if the US
  Congress messes with the daylight savings time dates. 

- The GNU people are some of the most rabid Linux supporters. They
  have created amazing software. They have also created huge amounts
  of documentation. Sadly, most of the documentation is horrible. It
  alludes to some features without giving necessary details. Some
  features are not mentioned. The docs are not searchable (except via
  Google, but that doesn't work too well.) GNU rants about Linux and
  open source, but without good docs and examples open source software
  just is not going to fly.

- When Emacs is run in windowing (graphical) mode, it has a menu to
  use Mule (the Multi-lingual environment) to select a font or a
  fontset. However, there is no built-in way to save that setting for a
  future session. The documentation doesn't address this
  problem. Don't be fooled by the "Save Options" menu which says "Save
  options set from the menu above." Mule options are not included. See
  my docs 

- Emacs key binding is interesting. There are maybe thousands of pages
  of documentation, and some is quite good, but none of it mentions
  that although control-shift-underscore is bound somewhere
  internally, you can't bind control-shift-n. I would really like to
  know why control-shift-underscore works in X Windows (X) and non X,
  but other control-shift bindings only work with X. Much of the blame
  for this lies with X Windows and/or the console drivers. Download my
  .emacs file for some examples, and just be aware that you should
  probably test all your bindings in "emacs -nw" if you want them to
  be portable. Also there are separate key maps, and you have have to
  change a binding in a different key map. You'll have to guess at the
  names of the maps because describe-bindings prints the key map names
  in some human readable form, not the exact form they must be used in
  your .emacs file.

- Fedora 6, sound works fine, but only in one application at a
  time. If XMMS was the first to use sound, then Firefox won't make
  sound (no message). Noatun give this message when it starts:
  "Connecting/starting aRts soundserver failed. Make sure that artsd
  is configured properly." If Firefox starts first, then XMMS
  says:"Couldn't open audio" and a suggestion that I check to see if
  my sound card is configured properly. This is amusing since Firefox
  is playing sound in another window. You can imagine that spending an
  hour searching the www will turn up the answer to this problem. As
  far as I can tell, my system is using ARTS for sound. XMMS and the
  KDE Sound System config will both work simultaneously (mixing sounds
  together). However, Firefox (Flashplayer) and Noatun seem determined
  to have exclusive sound access. I have seen Fedora installations
  where the sound behaves well in mutiple applications, but I don't
  know what the secret is. (Installing flash-plugin.i386
  0: seems to have fixed the Firefox/Flash sound
  issues. I installed alsa-oss, but I didn't configure or enable any
  oss features, so I'm guessing that installing alsa-oss didn't have
  any effect. I found some instructions that said to install alsa-oss
  then run alsaconfig, but there is no such application. Noatun now
  doesn't even bother to put a window on the screen.)

- The media player Totem as installed by Fedora says this about wmv
  files: "Totem could not play 'file:///home/mst3k/yadayada.wmv'.  You
  do not have a decoder installed to handle this file. You might need
  to install the necessary plugins." There are no hints about where to
  get these "plugins". The Totem documention doesn't mention
  plugins. It probably means that you should install mplayer and all
  the mplayers codecs. After that you might be able to play movies
  with Totem, although using mplayer would make more sense.