Linux as webdev workhorse machine - A complete mess?

This is purely subjective. I was thinking about using Linux as main os at some point. Back in the days, the problem I had with it mainly were compatibility and availability issues of software. But nowadays, Linux seems to me a total mess.

I am using Ubuntu with a Lenovo notebook at work. Neither browsers work stable (tons of memory leaks), nor the OS. Very often new “security” updates will destroy the amd display driver, or break something else. Then it is full of bugs, which never seem to be fixed. The graphical performance is pretty bad, it just can’t handle any 4k resolution properly. I actually hate how much time is wasted by fixing Ubuntu all the time.

The only positive I found is the raw performance when it comes to terminal commandos like Docker. This indeed works quite fast. Though recent updates on macos/m1 seem to be faster here already (if the docker container is ported to m1, which now is the case for most stuff).

So it seems to me that the quality of Linux drastically was lowered in the last years. When I tried Linux years ago, at least the graphics were very snappy all the time.

Is this a wrong impression? Is there some other derivate Linux which is more “business-compatible” than Ubuntu? I use that standard desktop manager of Ubuntu, should I switch it? Will then the amd drivers still work? Chrome seems to be a total mess as Linux version, is Firefox any better? Is there a proper email client?

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I’ve used Linux in one distro or another both professionally and personally since '95. Like any other OS, it goes through stages, some better than others. Right now I consider Ubuntu to have become the “Windows” of the Linux world. Big and bloated with “we will protect you from yourself” kind of security. Cloud services, snap and flatpack installs. Meh. I don’t think it’s a mess per se but it’s now becoming more mainstream for “point n click” users and less somewhat for those who still like to get under the hood. For myself, I still do my own custom Ubuntu-based (Debian) installs, modifying and paring away the stuff I don’t want or need. Guys like me are disappearing. We’re being replaced by the “I don’t care about the details as long as it works” users. Technologies like Docker. Kubernetes and other container-based packaging and deployment will surely improve and spread. Video drivers for Linux never keep pace with the hardware and now display technologies are burgeoning so the gap widens. The cycle will continue because the end-user market has changed significantly from when Linux was much more a “hackers” OS.

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Well, I would not mind more mainstream if this meant stable drivers, solid GUI performance and low latency. I agree with the bloatware factor in Ubuntu, but I actually mean lower quality. My hardware is like 5 years old, so driver should properly work in the meanwhile. But you are right, there are reasons why to switch to Linux:

  • no bloatware. Seems to be not true anymore

  • better stability. Can’t agree here.

  • better performance. Only partly, when it comes to raw CPU calculation. Often, the opposite is true

  • free and independent. This might be still true, I don’t know. Personally wouldn’t trust default installed services either.

As you point out, subjective. My use case is different so I haven’t seen some of the issues you mention. Right now, the last update of Firefox has been glitchy, but it usually sorts itself out. The issue, as I see it, is that folks are expecting an entire EXPERIENCE to be delivered to them from the 'net. Everything. Retail business, social systems, informatics, entertainment, etc. Takes a lot of programs and programming to deliver such diverse content and to try and do it efficiently and securely. Overall performance will always be a trade off. Quality will also to some extent. Wirth’s Law: software performance gets slower more quickly as hardware performance increases more rapidly. If one is writing apps and device drivers one has a no-win situation ahead.

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Well, all I can say is that Ubuntu seems to suck for work, if I compare it to macos. macos is fast and stable, browsers are fast and stable, graphics is fast and stable. There are not such drastic bugs either. Ok Apple sucks. Need to test docker on my m1 machine… Maybe imma pretend working on the Linux machine then…

I never liked Ubuntu for its bloated feel (but maybe it’s just me). At work I used to use Fedora a lot as it was kind of “normal”.


Need to test docker

Next time I tear down my OS I’m going to give docker a look mostly out of curiosity.

The nerds I know are using Arch Linux when they want a job to be done. The negative about that is, that you have to compile nearly everything on your own.

Arch and Mint seem to get a lot of attention. My method is to install Ubuntu server which puts down the core OS connectivity and support but has no DE. Do the update and upgrade steps. Then install lxqt-core for the DE. It’s a fairly minimal DE and as it’s Qt-based, fast, light on resources and easy to mod.

I’m skeptical about QT. Most developers do rewrite the classes to fit their (developers) needs although that`s not really allowed.

Used to be a big Ubuntu fan. I would set up KDE3 though. I did primarily Web dev then, and ran Renoise on it as well.

At some point KDE3 was replaced by KDE4, and it was a very different beast. A project came along to revive KDE3 (I forget the name) but so after I found that there were a few too many things I needed to do on Windows.

One nice thing about that time was that laptops hadn’t yet started sacrificing hardware features in a race to be the thinnest and lightest. (And Dell still offered laptops with track-point.) The hard drive could be replaced by a side slot, so I had two drives, one KDE3, one Windows Whatever.

Eventually though I just moved to Windows full-time and ran VMWare with Ubuntu server VMs.

Now I can do quite a bit of Unix-based stuff in Windows Subsystem Linux, and use VirtualBox if I need a more dedicated 'nix system.

I’m sure there are ways for us 1337 folks to set up a very slick and specific Ubuntu desktop but I’ve lost the motivation to try.

FWIW, on Windows 10 I use Classic Shell (still lovin’ the Win 95 experience : : ), AltDrag, and VirtuaWin to get a much better multi-desktop experience than the default Windows option. I use both ConsoleZ and ConEmu for terminal window stuff as well.


I think Linux is a worthwhile mode to drive the machines. Like breaking free from the window world, I don’t want to look back, the free software makes you independent of corporate agendas and a commercialized point of view on the software you use. And I got to love all the free software you get on Linux, even when some programs are not very polished or hard to use, there’s a solution to nearly anything, you get it for free and can even enhance it if you like and are able.

The whole scripting and hacking into operating system stuff you get on Linux is something I wouldn’t want to miss. And much of the software in the ecosystem was made by people who have a hacker’s view of working with software in mind. Just avoid the mainstream stuff, and you’re good.

Currently driving Ubuntu with KDE, really learnt to love the KDE desktop for a while now. My approach to getting a stable machine is to always stay with the LTS version until one version after the next LTS. Each time after update I would dedicate some time to fixing all the new bugs and quirks, and then usually the system is fine. Yes, I find I always have some things to fix with my system if it is new, updates I found break things seldom for me, though, LTS security updates seem to usually be stable and non-breaking. Also I often need to backport newer versions of software to get things running, new features or more stable versions, or to overcome bugs. LTS often has outdated software in the repos, but there are ways to update it if you really need it.

I think an important skill if you want to administrate a Linux machine that has to be stable is to find out about the bugs that you encounter, and to know the system well enough so you can find out and apply the right workarounds. Most bugs are already reported, especially if the version is older, and you may find workarounds for it, or if it was fixed in a newer version. You must know of course be able to tell if the workaround is good or not, there are many bad blog posts around from people who don’t show a proper way of fixing a problem. So you need basic knowledge of how the Linux system works to really be happy with it, or you need to know someone who can help you with it, even when it is just support forums.


Qt, in using it in the context of modding and customizing the DE doesn’t get too far into the internals. I tend to use AppImages when I can which don’t automatically add themselves to the system menus. With Qt I find it convenient to create my own .desktop entries (by hand) without reliance on even more system applications to do the work for me. I like the look and feel to the Qt system as well. James’s comment on KDE3/KDE4 and I’ll add gtk2/gtk3 changes were another reason I looked at Qt. Sure, it’s all OS evolution of a sort and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

I used Kubuntu at work doing Java work and what not, and it worked great. That said, out of nowhere, I would get paralyzed by display errors where I would waste an entire day+ trying to get the GUI to load after boot so I could actually do some work. It happened too often, but luckily I was with a team that was very easy going and understanding, although if they had yelled at me for being the only Linux person in the team while everyone else was using Macs, I would’ve totally understood.

I still use Kubuntu, I am using it to write this comment, and so far it has fared well on this laptop. But hell no am I going to customize the OS ever again or try to do something to “enhance” the KDE environment. I’m running Kubuntu as vanilla as I can.

When it comes to audio, it is tricky. I feel the whole ALSA-Jack-PA, and now Pipewire, is so touchy. One day I can have Renoise or Bitwig using ALSA drivers fine, and have audio from Firefox, then all of the sudden, that’s gone - I can’t play audio from Firefox if Renoise or Bitwig are opened.

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This seems to be a completely different story with Ubuntu. I use the LTS version, too, of course. Still graphics becomes instable, browsers freeze and crash, memory leaks all over the place (regular restarts required). Then all those little bugs, VPN does not work properly on a collegues machine (same setup), 4k graphics is painfully slow and buggy. The system can’t even remember windows positions properly, or at least a lot of software. Seems like such stuff is managed by the app, not by the os. Sometimes sleep mode does not work, sometimes it restarts the user session while sleeping. Really, it feels and actually IS a mess. My hardware is not slow at all, it is some more recent 8 core AMD cpu with Zen2 or so. The raw cpu power indeed is fast. It should be faster than my 2013 desktop by a lot. But it isn’t, the graphics is extremely slow. The whole OS looks unfinsihed, stuff does not fit together. Slack for Linux is a total mess, but also phpstorm is buggy. Never seen such problems with it on macos. Also I am not allowed to switch the distribution, to company restrictions, which makes it even more painful. As a consequent Linux seems to be only a good choice for server / terminal processor stuff to me.

Wow. Sorry to hear you’ve had such issues. I think I have avoided them somewhat as my use case is entirely different so I don’t need all “bells and whistles” as some users do. It’s rather ironic that, before I retired from the IT sector, I spent probably 90% or more of my time on the command line in a text console. I think that’s why I like my minimalist DE installs. There’s something to be said about writing shell scripts and C programs …

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Ubuntu is not what it used to be, use another distro. I use fedora on a lenovo laptop for development and it works great, no issues. Actually some lenovos were sold with fedora so it’s all very integrated and just works out of the box.
Ubuntu used to be great 10 years ago but it’s another story now.

As we were discussing, fortunately, there are still quite a few other distros that can be tried. I’d never use a full-on install of Ubuntu these days myself either. If I had to go full-on it would be Debian. There’s something to be said about a distro that doesn’t throw out a new release with every “new thing” that comes down the pike. I consider Debian to be about the most stable distro out there these days.

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I used to want LTS systems (like ubuntu LTS) for a long time but since fedora started to “just work”, clicking on the update button every 6 months is a non-issue for me.

My issue with debian stable would be the outdated packages. If you circunvent this by manually updating software (adding repos or downloading bins etc) you end up with a not so stable system after all. But at the same time there is flatpak now solving most of those issues…

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I think that’s what drives some of the quality issues that we see now. Again, a different background for me, but as long as a program was secure and did the job that it was intended to do, we didn’t mess with it. I guess some of the more modern distros have moved away from a basic tenet found in Un*x system philosophy and that we applied in the early days of Linux too; a program should do one thing and do it well. Times change.