Why Linux Will Never Make It to the Mainstream

To get ready for a Linux class I am taking, I have to put Linux back on the old Dell I have abandoned ever since moving Grace to the Mac. I decided to try the latest flavors out there — Ubuntu 5.10 and Fedora Core 4.

Linux has been great as a server environment for me. But I have been frustrated with it since the Redhat 8.0 days (precursor to the current Fedora project). Nothing has been intuitive in almost every aspect of the Linux wold. Everything from application naming convention (WTF is “Gimp” if you don’t Google it?), install, setup to the simplest things such as application upgrades. I have picked up quite a bit of Linux just from Googling and learning everything myself with occassional Q&A sessions with Kyung. But it never seems to get any easier.

Start with Ubuntu, the latest and the greatest and the most recent “king of ease of use”. Sure enough, the entire installation and setup process was seamlessly fast — took less than 3 hours with everything installed and done. It was as easy to install as the Windows installation process, I thought. And all it took was one 700MB disc. Easy! I liked the experience so far.

But it sucked when it came to upgrading Firefox from the default 1.07 to the latest I had to download Firefox, extract the file to some other directory, make symbolic links in one directory while changing other files and variables to make everything happy. Screw that. I tried using apt-get to update the software automatically, but then I was too lazy to figure out where to fix the repository list so that it’d get the latest Firefox, so I ditched Ubuntu.

Fedora Core 4
On with Fedora. I have used it quite a bit before. But that didn’t make the experience any easier. Upgrading Firefox was a bit simpler. But I still had to go through similar hoops. The main stumbling block on Fedora was trying to get VNC server to work properly (so that I can free up the monitor for my laptop). To demonstrate how much crap I had to do to make it work, here’s what I did…

1. Install VNC server by issuing this command

yum -y install vncserver

2. Check to see if vnc server has the right runlevel:

/sbin/chkconfig --list | grep vnc

but I got this:

vncserver 0: off 1: off 2: off 3: off 4: off 5: off 6: off

(hint: runlevel 5 should be


3. Change runlevel:

/sbin/chkconfig --level 5 vncserver

4. In


file, uncomment these two lines:

exec /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc

5. From the menu, go to “Applications > Preferences > Remote Desktop” and change options to allow remote users to control the workstation
6. Change rules in the iptables file (Linux version of a firewall) in


by adding a new rule:

-A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 5900 -j ACCEPT

(5900 being the port I need to open to allow VNC to accept communications through that port)
7. Restart iptables:

sudo /etc/init.d/iptables restart

8. Start VNC server:

sudo /etc/init.d/vncserver start

Yeah sure, I have everything in one place now. It sure took me some work and digging to put all the pieces together. Can an average Joe get VNC to work not knowing all this? The answer is obviouly a NO. And I rest my case… Unless things drastically change in simplifying the environment, it will never be in the mainstream.

UPDATE 06/14/2006: More info on how to set screen resolutions for vncviewer.