A survey of GNU/Linux shortcomings

Sunday, February 14th, 2010 | Author:

A long time ago, I switched from Micro$oft Windows to GNU/Linux. Since Ubuntu, I even recommend GNU/Linux to non-computerfreaks. Sadly, Ubuntu is not perfect. In particular, some applications are still missing. What follows is a wish-list of future Ubuntu features/applications. Some of these are available on Windows or Mac OSX, most aren't.

  1. Easy video recording - let the user take videos with every webcam within seconds, then upload to YouTube or similar. A similar proposal (a simple video editor) is on the lifehacker.com five feature request list.
  2. Stream capturing - saving streamed video data doesn't work so easily with all those different streaming formats. For some, you need a RTSP stream catcher, then maybe a RTMP stream catcher and for some you seem to be able to use just mplayer. And then there are many cases where all fails. Technically, what can be played can also be saved. But then there is the big Flash Player obstacle - some Flash videos are well-protected. Gnash may help there.
  3. PDF reader&editor - one tool that allows for reading PDFs, annotating them, publishing&sharing the comments, manipulating the PDF itself, adding additional layers, manipulating PDF metadata, etc. Just like the Adobe Acrobat Reader in its more expensive variant - but as open source tool with the ability to write plug-ins and integration into Gnome or KDE (or any) desktop. Okular is already on the right track! See also my article about editing PDF metadata.
  4. Centralised instant messenger and (video)telephony - unite Pidgin, Skype and other Videochat and IM apps in one UI. Maybe put this together with microblogging tools, since people use their IM status messages like microblogging anyway. Skype has announced to open-source parts of their Linux client, so this is not totally out of reach. Open source alternatives to TweetDeck are also there, for example Gwibber. See also my article on microblogging and news.
  5. Metadata in file browser - make the file explorer a metadata editor, paving the road for a semantic desktop. Even the Windows Explorer can do better than Nautilus for now! But then I haven't tried KDE's Dolphin for a while and this might be the right thing to do... See also my article on music metadata as well as my article on photo metadata.
  6. Asset manager - even one step further, make the file browser a pluggable asset manager, that can take the shape of a photo collection manager, a scientific paper organiser or a website bookmark manager. So far I know only of commercial asset managers and haven't yet investigated which one runs on Linux and might be useful for me. Do you have any recommendations?
  7. Annotation everywhere - a note-taking application that can annotate every single file or item on the desktop. This way you can relate a specific email to a task, to a note, to a website, to an application and a specific file - thus documenting entire work-flow states for later continuation. Well, there is Tomboy for now. See also my article on note-taking.
  8. Private browsing - create for Firefox or any other browser a CSS/Javascript security model that avoids CSS privacy hacks by not letting any information about how the HTML rendered leak into the Web. That would include creating an open source Flash plug-in that doesn't publish all Font and SuperCookie information. See EFF's PanoptiClick for more information about this. The SuperCookie issues can be softened with the BetterPrivacy Add-On for Firefox.
  9. Easy emulation - integrate a Dalvik VM naturally into the desktop, so that it's very easy to install&run Android apps from the applications menu. Maybe the project to implement a Dalvik VM in Java is the right way to do this. Of course, the same would be nice for Wine but I don't consider this an option because Dalvik is open and Windows isn't.
  10. Synchronise data with external sources - I want to backup all configuration and some data files with a variety of places: external hard-disks and remote storage services in the Web (encryption is necessary here). Ubuntu One is already a big step forward but I really want to backup all configuration so I could crash my computer, buy a new one, hit the "reinstall the software that was there before" button and then everything is back to normal. This is (almost) technically possible. Another road is, that I want to backup the data stored elsewhere (Delicious bookmarks, Google Reader Shared news, Facebook comments, etc.) to my home computer so I'm not stuck with one provider forever (so I can quit Facebook some day). This seems to be impossible for now, but the problem lies in coding "adapters" that take data from one service and move it to the other one.

Am I the only one who wants these features? Are they that hard to implement? (Yes) Hey, for most of these features, I would pay some money (depending on how well it's implemented). Oh well, and I admit that these features are not really Linux-related. It's just that I use Ubuntu and would want to have solutions available on open platforms. I guess web-apps and Java- or .NET-based apps would be OK for me, too - but then look again at the wish-list and you'll see that most features require desktop applications.

If you have suggestions for applications that solve one of those problems at least somehow a little bit, please leave a comment.

What is your favourite not-yet-there Desktop/Ubuntu/GNU/Linux feature?

The penguin image (Tux) is licensed from linux.org under a CC-BY-SA license

Category: English

Comments are currently closed.


One Response

  1. I've just seen "conduit" in Synaptic. I don't have time to test it or do any research, but the description sounds promising to address wish Nr. 10:

    Conduit is a synchronization application for GNOME. It allows you to synchronize your files, photos, emails, contacts, notes, calendar data and any other type of personal information and synchronize that data with another computer, an online service, or even another electronic device.

    From the Conduit Homepage:

    Conduit manages the synchronization and conversion of data into other formats. For example, Conduit allows you to :
    * Synchronize your Tomboy notes with another computer
    * Synchronize your your PIM data to your mobile phone, iPod, Nokia Internet tablet, or between computers
    * Upload photos to Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug, ShutterFly and your iPod