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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Linux Irks: Things in Linux that Irk You

An Open Question to Users

So this post is a bit different. This question goes out to all Linux users (casual, professional, full-time/part-time, whatever).

"What are your Linux irks? What are the things in Linux that irk you?" Just to clarify, this isn't a feature request thread. Not a "I wish feature X-Y-Z was in Linux." Mostly I am thinking of things like "I can live the situation; the workaround I have functions okay, but I wish they'd fix it or it was better." I'll start as an example (see below).

Can be big, small, significant or insignificant. This isn't a flame thread, so if you please, try to be polite and rant-free. (I know I rant sometimes. I try not to...)

Side Comment

I read the Phoronix news posts daily and semi-daily. There's a fair bit of graphics related Jargon to get used to and if you aren't a graphics enthusist, that website may not be for you. However they do cover much more than just graphics, though that seems to be their big passion.

I really love Linux, but I have to admit it's not perfect. There is a recent article about the state of much of Linux hardware support and honestly I think the poster did a good job of politely pointing out serious shortcomings while also presenting triumphs. Read it here if you are interested in getting a fairly realistic and well supported opinion on the state of Linux hardware support.


Not many things irk me about Linux (or my Linux experience), but:

1) EDIT -- A friend of mine kindly pointed out the solution to this problem a few weeks ago (on a day when I was particularly angry too, so it was very nice). The short version is: I needed to enable "USB Keyboard support and also USB mouse support" in my BIOS. So if you are having this problem, please poke around in your BIOS or google for the solution to your particular BIOS.

Legacy Post (SOLVED): One recently that continues to bite me is GRUB's USB-wireless keyboard support. My usb-wireless keyboard "Logitech DiNovo Edge" works great in Linux/KDE (after a simple one-time tweak for each Linux distribution update/install.) It works on boot-up in my BIOS, which is awesome. It works in Linux rescue disks in the basic consoles. It works in KDE/Gnome/Fluxbox/KMS/VirtualBox, you name it.

But when GRUB loads to ask me a question (sometimes after I install or remove kernels, or swap around harddrives), my usb-wireless keyboards STOPS WORKING. Rage.

Sigh... I've dealt with this problem for literal years now. I still keep a PS2 keyboard around to fix the problem. Though I should check if GRUB2 now supports just play non-wireless USB keyboards.

2) Missing out of the box multi-button mouse configuration. (I assert this must be a graphical configuration tool, since mice are fundamentally graphical.) I understand that not everyone will have a multi-button mouse, but I wish KDE, Gnome, or Debian/Ubuntu themselves made an officially supported project to handle these. I know it probably couldn't work for everything, but if someone started it as an officially supported project, people could build plugins for it and then it would be a widespread well supported project covering much of the FOSS and Linux world.

I use a Logitech multi-button mouse and I use BTNX to configure it. This works very very well, and I'm quite happy. However occasionally the BTNX package has been unavailable in versions of Ubuntu. One time it disappeared because of Kernel driver API changes, but several months later this was adjusted for. Another time, just recently with Ubuntu 12.04, it wasn't available for a month until a third-party library dependency issue could be resolved and BTNX could be made available for the latest Ubuntu version.


I'm in a somewhat privileged position... (maybe?) I don't play video games so the lack of game support on Linux rarely impacts me.


  1. I feel your pain, and thanks to you I was able to get my logitech dinovo kb setup quickly without messing abound too much. I was initially surprised that it wasn't supported by default. I haven't yet witnessed the grub boot loader problem and I hope I don't.

    Overall I agree with you, KDE is my default desktop and I can't live without it, or without Linux... but Linux/KDE/Gnome are always shy of being the best desktop around. I usually get frustrated with the lack of customization on my mac, and I get frustrated with the lack of flexibility/stability and/or unix environment support on windows, so I'm constantly on my linux machine with the beautiful plasma KDE desktop environment that has been customised in so many ways for my use.

    Personally, I don't believe we will see much of a change anytime soon. In my 15 years of using Linux as my official desktop/OS the same problems will haunt the Linux desktop env. When you consider the lack of commercial support for the Linux desktop and considering that MOST Linux users are technical oriented people that are almost always forgiving of the shortcomings in Linux.

    As for games, I've recently started playing with EVE and have that running on wine, works perfectly fine except that after awhile pulseaudio has to be killed and EVE restarted for sound to continue to function, which is really annoying when in the middle of a mission or something in EVE. Doesn't happen as much as it did on crossover which you would think would be the other way around considering crossover is a commercial product. But I'm optimistic that this will be resolved in future versions of wine and with steam supporting Linux now games on Linux look promising.

    Well thanks again for your help on the keyboard and stay strong, you never know, with Windows 8 we may get a new flood of people flocking over to Linux.... or maybe not.

  2. Hello Sahand. Thankfully item #1 on my list, the GRUB USB Keyboard issue, has finally been solved after years. I think I am wholly/partially to blame, since I never googled the problem and wrongfully assumed it was a Linux issue.

    I hope we do see some of these long term problems that have dogged Linux for years fade into the past someday. The hardware support is much better than it used to be, though there is always something left to be desired.

    As for games, with the Valve company bringing their entire Source-Engine and Steam platform to Linux, that could be a huge game changer. Value (and Ubuntu) are aware of some of the changes necessary to make Linux/Ubuntu a viable gaming platform. Among them are full OpenGL 3.x and 4.x support, but that's a huge upstream task. Another area which you touched on was PulseAudio. They are hoping to lower the latency considerably with that.

    I feel your pain with emulating some games. For certain ones, it operates great. Have you ever tried the program 'alsa-oss' or looked into tweaking PulseAudio to help?