Ever since I started working and using Linux back in the 90s the following year has always been “The year of the Linux Desktop” I think this peaked between 2000 and 2010 and just because of a meme after then.

Disclaimer

I really shouldn’t have to put this here, however, the thin-skinned get involved and start firing shots and getting angry because someone disagrees with their life view.

I’ve cut my teeth on Suse, I was using Fedora Core 1 and every version since, I was an original tester for the first release of Ubuntu, and I’ve used Linux daily since 2001 personally and at work. I’ve got some experience in this…

And we continue…

Linux Distros and more importantly Linux Desktops are not awful, considering the way they are created, managed and kept going, they are a labour of love for many and almost a religious experience for some.

Taking into consideration what the platform was like back in the 90;s and today’s KDE, Gnome and myriad of other desktops there are some beautiful Linux experiences out there. Possibly too many.

It’s possible to argue that the choice which makes Linux such a great experience for some has been its downfall for the masses. What distro does a new user try? This is the first flame war experience a new user has Ubuntu, Slackware, Arch, Opensuse, Fedora.. each person battling to sell the amazingness of their chosen distribution.

Then there is which Desktop, as if KDE vs Gnome wasn’t enough there are a whole slew of other options Mate, Cinnamon, XFCE all offering various types of user experience.

As with choosing a distro, choosing a DE will lead you down a dark path.. one fraught with lots of personal opinions and suggestions.

For an average consumer who just wants to use their computer, all this choice is not good… They will not spend years honing a preference for distribution, editor, package manager, or desktop environment.. they just need Facebook, Twitter, News, Netflix, etc…

As we move forward as well, the traditional way of doing things is changing, while Windows was dominant, and has been dominant for many years web apps have changed the landscape and opened people up to IOS devices, macOS, Android, and ChromeOS all simpler easier ways to operate than your standard Linux distro.

The simple fact is, while distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora are becoming polished alternatives to Windows it may be too late, and it may be Google that will eventually make “the year of the Linux desktop” happen.

While hardened Linux users will do a sharp intake of air, and sharpen their fingers to rant on the keyboard. let’s have a think about this…

It’s 2022 and when I install any of the Top Tier Distros most of which are running Gnome 42 I have the following issues out of the box.

Displaylink

If I plug in a DisplayLink adaptor for multiple monitor support nothing will work, because I need to install the DisplayLink Drivers. These drivers will run on Ubuntu, however, there isn’t support for RPM distros on the site. So getting DisplayLink working on Fedora or Opensuse is not a straightforward install.

Love it or hate it is irrelevant it’s a commonly used system in Docks to provide multi-monitor support.

Wireguard

Open Up Gnome any version up to 42, and the out of the box VPNs supported are PPTP and OpenVPN on most systems. No wireguard support. Even adding using apt or yum or dnf the wireguard and wireguard-tools packages won’t provide a graphical means available from the Gnome interfaces identified location for adding VPNs ‘

Having installed that software you could head to the Network Manager configuration GU I nm-connection (I think) and add a Wireguard VPN, however, you then can’t use the Gnome menu to launch it. Basically, if you want to use wireguard on Gnome (the default DE for Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuse) you head to the command line.

KDE does have the Network Manager plugin so I can use the intended KDE location for Installing a Wireguard VPN in KDE.  

KDE however while available for all of the above distros is NOT the default option or the one pushed to new users. Gnome is.

HiDPI

High Dots Per Inch or Retina type displays have been common since the 2000s and are pretty standard on most upper midrange and high range laptops. Yet still, Linux cannot out of the box figure out I’m running an HDPI screen and deal with settings for me. As a new user, I’m pushed to wade through Google searches to find that I need to delve into settings and click on buttons.

This is not a good experience.

Multi-Monitor

Sticking on the subject of displays, having got my Displaylink and HiDPI monitor sorted out working with more than 2 screens is still a very hit and miss affair with the third screen being misplaced, the wrong resolution or just not available I recently tested the latest Ubuntu (Gnome), Linux Mint (Cinnamon), Fedora (Gnome 42), KDE Neon (KDE) and Opensuse (KDE) on physical hardware Dell XPS 13 a laptop specifically shipped with Ubuntu and designed to be Linux friendly and not one Linux distro could cope with a Samsung ultrawide and a 1080P 42″ screen being attached to the OS.

As a comparison, the same display setup works with 3 other OS’s 1 out of the box with no need to add drivers (more on that later)

Bluetooth Pairing

Bluetooth has been a thing since the dark ages, it’s an item of ubiquitous hardware it’s on everything.

Yet some devices just will not on Linux (same setups as above) pair or take ages to be seen and to pair. Most don’t survive reboot without the need for repairing and will occasionally disconnect during the day. Examples of this are

  • Bose Speakers
  • Sony Noise Cancelling Headset
  • Logitech Keyboard
  • Logi MX 3 Mouse

Google Remote Desktop Support

I’m going to cite this as an example of software that has gone down a single path… there are plenty of other examples of vendors who have chosen 1 distro to run with and one packaging format to support.

Try running Google’s Remote Desktop support on anything other than a DEB based platform. Not easy…

However, it’s not surprising, which packaging format does a vendor use? Deb, RPM, APPImage, tar.gz files, .bundle, Snap, Flatpak..

I once worked with someone who said “this standard doesn’t work, let’s create a new standard to cover it” this must be the route distros took on packaging managers…

I’m all for choice, just not to the detriment of the product… Microsoft EXE/MSI, Apple Mac DMG files.. easy

Tablets

Finally, I’m going to mention Linux on Tablets, a computing hardware concept around for over 15 years.

Apparently, Linux doesn’t think tablets are a thing, and as such the Desktop Environments are terrible to use with them, virtual keyboards suck, the interface doesn’t adapt for touch and there are too many interface choices based on a mouse pointer, not a sausage finger.

Its almost as if in about 2015 the whole Linux community just cancelled tablets and never spoke of them again

But Dear blogger I don’t have this problem, maybe it’s you?

You’re right, you may not have any of these, some of these or you might not have all of these. I don’t really care, because the point is all of these are issues that make life hard for new users of a Linux distro.

These are people who don’t want to google the fix, don’t want a flame war based on the choice of browser, editor, or desktop they chose…

This is why over the years, it’s NEVER been the Year of the Linux Desktop, it’s not a simple, easy, working desktop…

So Mr Blogging person, what do you suggest?

I’m not a hater on Windows or Apple both are great tools for the jobs they do, however more and more both have steep learning curves even for technically gifted among us (I hear new starters at companies I’ve worked for whine like kids because they have been given a Mac and never used it or a Windows PC because they have come from Mac)

There is an OS, which out of the box has zero of these issues listed above and is better suited for consumers.

ChromeOS

(Takes a deep breath)

So if you’ve been living in a cave, and have opinions based on the 2011 release as being the last version of ChromeOS you tried. Then you need to install ChromeOS Flex and update those opinions and understand how the average user (not you or your gaming mates) uses a PC.

Out of the Box, ChromeOS supports Displaylink with Multimonitor support (5 monitors is the most I’ve had a Chromebook running with) so nothing to install, it just works. Wireguard is supported in the OS’s location for adding VPNs. Printers install automatically, it works on a Laptop or Tablet. And Bluetooth (now) works.

There is no need to worry about Package installers because the application most people use is installed, a web browser. This provides access to banking, media, maps, storage, video editing, image editing, remote desktops

For those that need more than those apps you use on your Android phone from Google, Samsung and Oneplus well they are just a Google play store click away and will change size between phone, tablet and full screen as needed.  Familiarity is understood as a powerful thing even by Microsoft after a recent Windows 11 update.

Then for the even more technically competent there is access to a Debian Linux container which will run GUI based Linux Apps or command Line environments, runs docker for development and you can have multiple of these…

However at its core, as an OS it offers people what they need most in an Operating system.

Something they can turn on and use…

Not something they need to worry about AntiVirus, Firewalls, Command Lines, installing drivers, printers, screens, something where Bluetooth connects, and updates for you.

In the many years of Linux Desktop, this is something its never been able to do in a single-minded quest of being the next Windows/OSX replacement, it forgot to be something more important

better…

By davidfield

Tech Entusiast