Thursday, 11 March 2010

KDE 4 drove us to Windows Vista

We just finished a week of hell after trying and failing to upgrade from Debian Lenny to Debian Squeeze. None of the Debian Linux kernels working correctly on our stock Dell PowerEdge T605 hardware was the first major headache and KDE 4 was the second. In our 10 years of using Linux its user unfriendliness seems to be as poor as ever.

With the latest KDE 4, it seems that KDE itself has also gone from bad to worse. We migrated from Gnome to KDE many years ago because we found Gnome to be buggy and user unfriendly only to discover that KDE was only superficially stable. KDE 4 takes this to a new level and our log files are filled with records of segfaults. KMail was once riddled with serious bugs but these were ironed out in KDE 3 and it became a usably-stable e-mail client a few years ago and served us well. Not so with KMail from KDE 4, which regularly segfaults, losing and/or corrupting data and has consistently failed even to move significant numbers of e-mails around within its own Maildir.

Following our catastrophic encounter with the latest round of open source software we have decided to migrate everything from Linux+OCaml to Windows, .NET and F#. Unfortunately, KMail quickly threw another spanner into the works because it is almost entirely incapable of exporting e-mails to other usable formats. We eventually managed to migrate essential e-mails by setting up a local IMAP server using dovecot, painstakingly copying a few mails at a time from KMail's local store to the IMAP server and then downloading them using Microsoft Outlook. Any attempt to copy a significant proportion of our 3.2GB of e-mails resulted in KMail either crashing with an error after it had corrupted its own file store or dying completely with a segfault.

Back in 2007, we were reluctant to adopt Windows due to previous bad experiences but this latest round of failures is the last nail in the Linux coffin from our perspective. Goodbye and good riddance, Linux!

20 comments:

kripken said...

Hmm, I normally enjoy reading this blog, because the stuff posted tends to be well thought out. So I was surprised to see this sad and ignorant post. Meh.

James said...

@kripken: What the hell kind of response is that? How is the post "sad and ignorant"? Do you have any intelligent rebuttals to his points?

kripken said...

I wasn't giving a rebuttal. The article didn't seem serious enough to warrant one - that is what surprised me. It's a sudden decrease in quality for this blog.

But since you asked, here are some issues with the post:

* Not clear if the server machines with Debian issues are the same ones KDE was installed on, or there are separate desktops. If the same, then using Debian as a desktop distro is only a good idea if you are ok with rough edges. If not, why not use a desktop distro. Or, if not the same, then which distro was used with KDE 4 is worth mentioning.

* They used GNOME 'many years ago'. Perhaps they haven't tested it since. GNOME is stable and user-friendly these days. KDE on the other hand has many more features for power users, but is less stable, *especially* KDE 4.X. For that reason, the main desktop distros tend to prefer GNOME, like Ubuntu.

* By all means, use Windows 7 if you want. And lodging legitimate complaints against KDE 4.x is fine. Also not even trying GNOME, on a proper desktop distro, is cool - don't if you don't want to. But if you don't, then don't say blanket statements about Linux in general, especially when said statements are in addition clearly false.

* "Goodbye and good riddance, Linux!" is more appropriate for a teenage fanboy than a serious blog like this. The only thing missing was a "teh sux" somewhere.

Perhaps the article was written immediately after some particularly exasperating interaction with Linux, without cooling down first? If so, then I guess that's understandable.

andre said...

How come Windows Vista? I thought Windows 7 was supposed to be much nicer?

Diego said...

Incredible, nobody can dislike Linux and KDE without being bugged by some fanboy...

James said...

So you're obviously capable of articulately, if rather superciliously, describing some problems with the original poster's approach, and even some different approaches that might work. And instead of doing that you call the post "sad and ignorant" and leave it at that?

Please don't re-enforce the negative perception of the open-source community if you're capable of making a positive contribution.

kripken said...

This has nothing to do with open source or Linux or whatever. Personally I use the right tool for the job, be it Windows or Linux or anything else (right now I have Windows on my laptop and Linux on my desktop). Neither is better than the other, and neither is worthy of 'good riddance!' unless you are a fanboy of the other.

My point was that I have greatly appreciated this blog and held it in high esteem, for a while now. Then this post comes along, reading like it was written by someone else entirely. Highly disappointing.

Me said...

I think that the post was done with a little bit of sensationalism which is over board. It's a bit like a newspaper headline that means one thing (very sensational and attractive) and when you go down to reading the content you find that it doesn't live up to the promise of the title.

I'm not a linux fan (I'm a M$ MCSE and MCAD) but I have to admit that it's a bit dissapointing to read a post like this where we don't hear more details about the attempts and outcomes that simply drove him off to switch platforms.

my 2 cents

Flying Frog Consultancy Ltd. said...

@Me: I'm more than happy to give details.

I tried Debian Lenny and Squeeze with install CDs and Live CDs as well as Ubuntu 9.10 and Kubuntu 9.10 all on both x86 and x64. Of all those Linux combinations, none work.

The Linux kernels shipped with all of the Debians either couldn't handle the HDD or couldn't handle the network so they couldn't even install the OS.

The kernels shipped with Ubuntu and Kubuntu seem incapable of handling video correctly. The default ATi drivers are clearly buggy but even resorting to Vesa and an unusably-low resolution, the Kubuntu install still cannot even run X over VNC reliably (and I tried three different VNC servers all with the same results).

Trying to run KDE 4 from a tiny X session is tedious enough but damn near everything in it keeps segfaulting. The logs are full of segfaults from various parts of KDE.

Looking at the source code to some of this software the problem seems clear to me: this is just incredibly badly written software. I was frustrated by the lack of interoperability between OSS applications but now I'm not even sure it would be worth trying to get intopererability working. KMail cannot even copy e-mails around within its own system reliably, let alone between systems.

@kripken: Many of these problems clearly lie with the Linux kernel (e.g. HDD not working, network not working, video not working). I don't believe there is anything "rough" about Debian as a desktop OS: it served us well for 10 years. Gnome seems to work fine but it doesn't solve our problem: we want to get our mails off KMail (which appears to use its own proprietary dialect of the Maildir format that nothing else can read directly and it cannot copy elsewhere reliably).

@Andre: We've got Vista and we're happy with it.

Arkie Alderton said...

Unix systems have a very effective set of shell commands for dealing with information contained in text files. awk, grep, ...

How do you replace that in Windows?

Jules said...

A: you don't use text files as much. Or you use something like Ruby. Or the search that is built in to windows.

kripken said...

The default ATI drivers are indeed buggy. Likely if you had installed the official (binary) ATI drivers that would have been ok.

Ubuntu+GNOME+official ATI drivers is a combination that works well for plenty of people. Whereas Debian can have hardware issues as you found; KDE is unstable; and the default ATI drivers are problematic. Looks like you tested a particularly bad combination.

Given that, I can understand the frustration that led to writing this blog post. But it isn't representative of Linux in general, just like my initially poor experience of Vista on my laptop wasn't representative of Windows in general (it was because of pre-installed crap that crashed and slowed it down).

Anyhow, seems you have successfully migrated to Vista and things work fine for you, so that's all that matters at this point.

Arkie Alderton said...

@Jules:

many data in biology, physics come in text format you can't avoid that. And the powerful text processing capabilities of Unix, together with the pipe system, allow one to do useful things very quickly, and programmatically.

Is the same productivity level possible in Windows? eg how do you pipe something into awk, then into octave and then into gnuplot in a reproducible way?

Jules said...

Sure, Windows has pipes too.

lady said...

成功不是一個海港,而是一次埋伏許多危險的旅程。 ..................................................

Carlo said...

If all programmers were like our humble froggie:

I don't like this concept / part of OCaml, so "Good riddance, functional programming !" ...

Is it now clear why some (those gifted with brain-cells enough to tell apples and oranges apart) might not entirely like his inflammatory post ?

Carlo said...

fscking bloogger ate my < %gt; chars.

this concept / part of OCaml -> this <whatever> concept / part of OCaml

James said...

@Carlo

Except that isn't at all analogous. He didn't abandon Linux because he "didn't like some part of it". He left it because an upgrade from one version of Debian to a subsequent one not only didn't work, but also rendered the machine unusable. He then tried a different distro, and that wasn't any better. If he was talking about Windows rather than Debian and Ubuntu, you'd be howling with derision.

And what's with the phrase "those gifted with brain-cells enough to tell apples and oranges apart" - is it just impossible for a Linux advocate to write three paragraphs without being insufferably supercilious?

Thorin Oakenshield said...

I totally agree @kripken . I can not believe you've migrated Vista. Well, good luck!

Michael Robin said...

Well, if something drove you to Vista, it should easily drive you to Win7 then...