Everything Wrong With Desktop Linux In Less Than 3 Minutes

Main image: Linus Media Group

Linus Tech Tips has unleashed Part 2 of its ongoing, divisive yet eye-opening Linux Gaming Challenge. It only takes 2 minutes and 48 seconds of viewing time in this new video to realize how fractured and confusing desktop Linux can be for beginners. Even to technically savvy beginners like Linus Sebastian.

The goal for Part 2 was straightforward: get their Linux desktops prepared for game streaming, including integrating their existing cameras and audio equipment.

Admittedly, the Linus Tech Tips team may have more exotic setups than yours or mine. And while they did slam into several minor hurdles, both of them ultimately ended up with a quality stream.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E8IGy6I9Wo[/embedyt]

sudo apt-get confusion

But one glaring issue came into focus along the way, and it has nothing to do with a user’s technical prowess. It has everything to do with fragmentation and misinformation.

Part 1 of this video series depicted Linus having a disaster of a time with System 76’s Pop OS. Let me summarize the end result for you:

Let’s not dwell on that today, though. System76 immediately patched that unfortunate bug, removing the possibility for that to happen to anyone else. (By the way, KDE now also prevents users from removing the Plasma desktop).

The takeaway is that Linus cut his teeth on a Debian/Ubuntu-based distribution. And since he used the command line, he got a crash course with the Apt package manager.

Linus, however, has since switched to Manjaro. As an Arch-based Linux distribution, it uses a completely different package manager called pacman. So when it came time to install OBS Studio (the gold standard for streaming and video capture), he opened a terminal window and innocently typed:

sudo apt-get obs-studio

Anyone who’s distro-hopped or is proficient in the way of CLI-fu is probably groaning, but that’s an honest, reasonable mistake! It underscores the need for a more harmonious solution to software installation across the Linux ecosystem.

The Linux Way: Pick Your Poison

Technically, there are no less than four separate ways to install OBS Studio on Manjaro. You can:

  • Install it from the Snap store
  • Install the Flatpak of OBS Studio
  • Use the built-in package manager (via the GUI or via command line)
  • You can install one of seven available versions (!) from the AUR (Arch User Repository)

On Windows and macOS, there is one common way to install OBS Studio. And that method represents the officially supported version of the software. (FYI: Only Mint and Ubuntu versions of OBS are officially supported.)

Complicating matters is that each installation method boasts its pros and cons, which vary considerably depending on who you ask.

Which leads us right into the next, even larger issue.

F*** You Nvidia!

Before we hit the 3-minute mark in the new LTT video, Linus bumps into another roadblock. The version of OBS Studio he installed from Manjaro’s software center lacks something crucial for Nvidia users: NVENC.

NVENC takes advantage of purpose-built hardware inside modern GeForce graphics cards. It’s an excellent solution for streamers and content creators because it effortlessly encodes video for streaming and recording. And it does so without your CPU bearing the load.

Linus’ disappointment upon discovering that he can’t use NVENC is palpable. Then he screenshots a two-year-old Reddit post stating that Nvidia’s NVENC isn’t supported on Linux.

Linus Torvalds saying f*** you to Nvidia.
Ah yes, the classic GIF that’s become the rally cry of Nvidia-hating Linux users…

Which is humorous, since I’ve been using it flawlessly on various Linux distributions for at least 18 months. That’s because during their tenure at Canonical, Alan Pope and Martin Wimpress put loads of work and a toy box full of extra features into the Snap version of OBS Studio.

The versions of OBS Studio in Debian and Ubuntu repositories also support Nvidia’s hardware encoding. Had Linus installed the Snap version on Manjaro, he’d be ready to rock with NVENC. But how would Linus know that? How would anyone, honestly?

How would they know unless they’re practically cemented into the Linux echo chamber? Maybe after they’ve scoured enough guides and Reddit posts with outdated information, they’ll eventually stumble onto the truth. Perhaps they’ll eventually stumble onto this article.

But the reality is this: Linus concludes that this feature’s omission must be yet another reason the Linux community hates Nvidia. Which is equally humorous, because I’m part of the Linux community and I prefer Nvidia for both gaming and gameplay capture. I’ve spoken to many others who feel the same way, citing that even brand new Nvidia cards “just work” out of the box with the proprietary driver.

Linus Vs Linux: We Desperately Need This

This Linux Gaming Challenge is going to ruffle the feathers of many a Linux diehard. If you count yourself among those ranks because you feel offended, or you believe Linus is dumb, or you believe it’s all just an elaborate ploy to get clicks, or because you think it’s perfectly acceptable for everyday users to implement hacky solutions to simple issues, you might be part of the problem.

Within 3 minutes, I actually felt embarrassed for Manjaro. I saw its outdated and clunky graphics driver menu through fresh eyes.

I saw through fresh eyes how confusing it is for that brand new Linux user to do something as basic as installing a piece of popular software. And I witnessed how misinformation and preconceived notions can spread like wildfire, unchecked by logic and reality.

And this is only 3 minutes of a single video that’s part of a larger multi-part series! Whoo-boy, we’re in for a world of pain.

Wait, no we’re not. We’re in for a world of improvement. Will it be painful? Will it leave scars? Yep. But desktop Linux should emerge from this scrutiny and criticism a better product. A more user-friendly experience. A more unified, dare I say it, platform.

But only if we remain open-minded and honest with ourselves. We love Linux, but if we want others to love it, Linux has to improve. And in the right hands, with the right guidance, this Linux Gaming Challenge will do that.

Embrace this, don’t hate this.

Linus makes simple, honest mistakes. He’s a very public reflection of so many people coming to Linux, getting frustrated, and returning back to Windows or macOS. But those mistakes are already yielding improvements.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

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17 thoughts on “Everything Wrong With Desktop Linux In Less Than 3 Minutes

    1. I think Linus is fair on is approach. But when you are following from a long time and know how he can be stubborn when he is against windows issue to found truth and solve is issue. I can say I’m bit disappointed to that he as not the same stubborness to found how to solve is issue on Linux.
      BUT if you take the challenge in the side of using linux to game, stream when going from windows as classic user and not some well experienced linux user on the side, then yes he his more than fair to a more popular side of thinks.

      So he is fair and unfair at the same time. But I think this challenge is a very good point for the linux ecosystem to show them that the selfish way of doing thinks with the idea that we are not windows and we don’t need the same easyness to do thinks. We need more easy way and userfriendly way of doing thinks on linux. Even if there is and there will still be distro that maintain this unfriendlyness side of thinks 🙂

      Love your works

    2. Considering how Windows-centric the whole PC (gaming) ecosystem (education) is, I don’t believe so. Especially considering a lot of these problems (from Part 2, at least; Part 1 was just straight-up embarrassing) are due to third-parties not giving a damn about supporting their products on Linux systems. Users just have no choice but to rely on whether someone in the open-source space has the know-how/time/goodwill/hardware in order to try and make it work, usually for free.

      The same logic applies to gaming, where native versions are in many cases an afterthought. Developers eventually stop (or never do) giving the proper support. As such: lack of users means lack of demand, which means lack of games, which means lack of users. It’s that darn Catch-22 again…

      All that said, I agree with you that, considering the channel popularity, we can hope that after these (ouchy) videos some distro devs start paying more attention to UX design. Don’t think it’ll help much in gaining users (tis all about OEMs and marketing anyhow), but at leasts it’ll shake up the OSS scene a bit.

    3. I disagree with you on the need for “more harmonious solution to software installation across the Linux ecosystem”.
      For starters, Linux is just a kernel, not the whole OS and it is all about freedom. Not about imposed defacto standards.
      Some liked systemv but then you have systemd, you have KDE and Gnome, rpm and deb, apt and pacman, Flatpacks and snaps. These last two already address the problem you try to bring here on the low level, but the point is that most distros include a GUI tool in charge of software deployment somewhat hiding the technical details. If you don’t know what you are doing, you should stick to that tool. If you know what you are doing, you can open up a term and fire some comands, but dont complain if you copy pasted instructions for a different distro. Would you complain if you copy instructions for a Mac and then paste them on a Windows box and they don’t work? When you open an term, you are in charge and you should have the ability to determine if you know what you are doing or if you better ask a friend.

      Then complaining about nvida GUI not being clear while using “comic sans” as the UI font? Presenting that in the video as it is the way it normally is while you have to explicitly switch to that font? I don’t have an explanation for why you would do that, but certainly it is against considering it a fair representation of reality. Same as presenting himself as an “average user” while trying to stream on on twitch on a $10K custom build with studio quality equipment. The average user I know gets a PC or Mac with the OS preinstalled and their main tasks are browsing, email, office, etc. He is presenting his frustrating niche exotic use case as the norm for every median windows user considering to play a few games on linux.

      His frustration while trying to right click download a file from Github and adding that to the overall “linux experience” is non-sense. First, it is not the only site that clicking on a file name directs you to the file overview. It would only require to actually read what is on the screen instead of “muscle memory” it. But most importantly, it works the same way on Windows and Mac and most ironically, Github is owned by Microsoft.

      Ubuntu has support for OBS (and for many other non trivial or proprietary things). It is also certified or pre-installed on many brands suchs as Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc. It is also the distro with the largest user community. Why skipping that option entirely and trying an disto based o Arch which best suited for more versed users? You know what the average user would do, buy a PC with Ubuntu pre-installed and check online if the peripherals are supported by linux before buying them (quick online search).

      There is a serious problem with device manufacturers no providing proper drivers for Linux. Then some random guy on the internet during his free time finds a way to reverse engineer it, make quick and dirty tool and decides to share with the community. Are you going to blame that guy because is doesn’t have the QA cycles needed for a polished product or the manufacturer? I am grateful for that guy and I understand certain companies don’t want to assign bandwidth on niche products to run on exotic environments such as Linux.

  1. It’s like an inspection or audit from another department. At first it may be painful and embarrassing, and it might make people get defensive. But in the end, if the developers and distros are open to criticism and improvement, it makes for a better end product.

    When you stubbornly stick by your flawed product, refusing to see its imperfections and making the necessary changes, new users have very few reasons to come, and every reason in the world to leave. Usually with a warning to other prospective users to stay away.

  2. This LTT series has been so spot-on, and as always, great article Jason!

    I was hell-bent on making Linux a daily driver and primary gaming platform early last year. Still, after several experiments with dozens of different distros and with the same types of endless quirks, workarounds, and loss of functionality on some software and hardware (depending on the distro) that Linus and Luke are experiencing, I gave up. Instead, I now focus on making my Windows systems as lean-n-mean as possible for gaming (not easy and a pain to sustain) and am happily back to good ol’ Mac OS as my daily driver for work and non-gaming uses.

    For now, I’ll keep playing around with Linux distros on my Raspberry Pi’s and some older hardware sitting around the house, but it’ll just be a tinkering hobby to do in my free time at this point until some of these significant gaps are closed.

    1. Thanks for coming around and reading my stuff, Aaron!
      I too have been feeling the temptation of macOS, especially following my M1 Air purchase. My dream is that someday in the not so distant future, I’ll be able to rock Linux, Windows and macOS in perfect harmony on this thing.

      Hey, I can dream 😀

  3. I’m a bit torn because I’ve agreed with everything he said up to this point and was thankful for the insight, then he goes and jumps the shark with this video. A new user is not going to immediately go to a terminal and type in apt-get anything. The terminal is not a new user’s go-to application. A new user is going to check the desktop for a graphical store of some sort. In which case, he would have found pamac, octopi or whatever manjaro was using. This insulates the new user from having to understand the different package formats. You want OBS? You search for OBS and install it. GRANTED, multiple results is not helpful and very confusing, but a new user would not have tried the terminal first. However, it should have given him an error, not tried to install something and get hung in a loop.

  4. Nice article Jason. I thought the LTT videos were fair. I felt bad for PopOS. I also admire the pragmatic approach of Linux Mint. The variety of package managers really hurts Linux. Snap and Flatpak need to agree to a shared standard. This is killing Linux growth. Not sure what to do for hardware from companies that have no interest in supporting Linux.

  5. I agree with your assessment that Linux is more confusing, what with all the different packaging formats and all. The choice of the first distro can really affect the impression and success for a first time user however, and that makes it unfortunate that Pop!_OS suffered a bug at the time. If it hadn’t been there, it would have been among the more straight forward to use choices.

    I think the experiment and is valuable and interesting. It did make me think: most people don’t buy a computer with Linux preinstalled. If they would, they probably wouldn’t have such issues because manufacturers stick to tried and true/LTS/stable distros. These are generally robust and user friendly. Open source and LTS also provide long term stability. If a Windows update causes BSODs, breaks a driver or causes some problem the user doesn’t understand, usually the computer just gets blamed and people buy a new one (but generally sticks to Windows). My older hardware doesn’t work with Windows 10, let alone 11 anymore. But I can run the latest Mint or Ubuntu LTS without issues.

    I digress my point is, this would have been more fair with preinstalled product.

  6. One point to ponder, PopOS was fast to react, but it’s because someone who has influence like Linus S, what if nobody like me complaints.

  7. OBS-Studio doesn’t Lack NVENC – I use it all the time on Manjaro – it’s just janky with its detection… that, and you May also have to install gstreamer plugins to access it.

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