The Anatomy of a Crappy Linux Distro

All Linux distributions are not created equal. Some are superior in quality while others are so full of crap.

I have tried plenty of distros my entire life and have experienced using those that made my blood boil. I'm naturally a patient man, however, I have to be honest and share to you (based on my own experience) some of the things that can make me think of a distro as a piece of rubbish.

For me, a Linux distro is crappy when:

1. Installation takes hours to completely finish despite using a high-end machine.

2. It fails to install even after using every given boot parameter.

3. The installer fails to configure the boot loader properly.

4. The size of the system installer is more than 1GB but its included or out-of-the-box applications are mostly not what I wanted.

5. Its package manager can mess up the installed applications after a software update.

6. It sacrifices performance for beauty.

7. It tries to look like Mac OS X or Windows Vista.

8. It has a lightweight window manager but it's slower than a walking turtle.

9. Its project website and help forums treat you like s#!%.

10. It fails to give you necessary updates and security fixes.

11. Its latest distribution version is way buggier than the previous version.

12. Its stability is equal to that of Windows 2000 Me.

13. Have you used a crappy Linux distro? Feel free to add your annoyances here.

I hate those crappy distros, but I still love Linux :)


  1. ummm...

    1. I haven't ever had a distro take longer than 30 minutes to install in the last two years, and had one do it in 12 minutes!
    2. & 3 Have had this happen with four of the current top ten distros
    4. ?
    5. at least once
    6. That's a novel idea...get it?
    7, you mean, in general, like gnome and kde, or more specifically? I find no inherent problem with that.
    9. Most forums I have visited have been helpful and friendly. elive, pclinuxos, kubuntu, name a few
    10. ?
    11. Again, even distros in the top ten can suddenly lose wifi, audio, etc. with a new version/kernel..
    12. Never tried it...win2k, I mean.

  2. AnonymousMay 27, 2008

    Don't all distros tick those boxes at some point?

    openSUSE 10.3 is hit by 1,2,3(on a Mac),5,6

    Even Ubuntu 8.04 is hit by 11

    And I think 12 should say Windows ME, not 2000, to be fair 2000 was probably the most stable thing to come out of MS (not that that's saying much).

  3. AnonymousMay 27, 2008

    ubuntu can kiss my ass

  4. AnonymousMay 27, 2008

    You can add the following to your list:

    - Crappy or nonexistent documentation
    - Installer that is confusing to use
    - Installer that forces you to install a boot loader (Wolvix is one that has a good installer IMO)
    - Distros that claim to be something they are not (i.e. "lightweight" distro using Gnome or KDE, yea right)
    - RTFM Forums
    - No standard way of dealing with security issue (Linux is not immune)

    Stepping off the soapbox now....

  5. @Douglas

    Thanks for sharing to us your opinion. I agree with you in some point. However, I think you should consider yourself lucky because you didn’t have to experience what I’ve gone through.


  6. @LinuxJedi

    I know, all distros have been crappy at some point but several distros have considerably improved as time goes on, while others remained as crap.

    By the way, thanks for the correction. What I really meant was Windows Me (Messy edition)


  7. AnonymousMay 28, 2008

    I agree, a lot of them could do a lot more work.

    I am very disappointed that Ubuntu Hardy is released in the state its in. It could have done with a late LTS like last time.

    Way back when ME was released I used to work in a computer shop and we used to give them all nicknames. 98SE was 'Sh*t Edition' and ME was 'Many Errors' (or 'Munged Edition').

    Unfortunately my current boss looks at my Ubuntu desktop and makes some sarcastic Windows 3.1 comments. I get plenty of comeback when his XP desktop crashes though :)

    The fastest I have managed to get openSUSE 10.3 to install is 45 minutes on a MacBook Pro (admittedly from a DVD). It took another 2 hours to get a usable desktop from the install.

  8. AnonymousMay 28, 2008

    Ah, yes...I've been a Linux user for the past 3½ years and I've been stung by a few, and your top 12 list reminded me of a few I've used that I didn't have a favorable impression of, such as the following:

    #2 reminded me of Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, which I could NEVER get to boot to the live CD! However, this isn't a problem with Gutsy Gibbon, which, in fact, I happen to have installed right now.

    #5 MEPIS did this to me once, if I recall...

    #6 Mandrake 10.1 Community Edition, and, to a lesser degree, PowerPack Edition were guilty of this.

    #7 I used to be a KDE guy all the way, but KDE4's default Vista-ish look has caused me to dump it for GNOME.

    #9 This has happened to me with both PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint, both of which are great distros.

    #10 I won't consider any distro that does this, as I consider this indispensable.

    #11 Why does this point remind me of Ubuntu Hardy Heron? I tried it, and it SUCKS! I expect crappy software from Microsoft, a la Vista, but UBUNTU?!! Is nothing sacred anymore? This is why I decided to stick with Ubuntu's Gutsy Gibbon and wait for Intrepid Ibex to come out later this year.

    #12 This one DEFINITELY reminds me of Mandrake! Not to mention, I kid you not -- I made Ubuntu Dapper Drake freeze more solid than a block of ice once just by firing up Rosegarden (MIDI sequencer)!

    Yet in all of this, I still believe in Linux. With the disappointment that Hardy Heron has turned out to be, I've been looking for alternatives...

  9. hmmmm....what about LinuxOne? That was crappy for a whole other reason. :-D

  10. AnonymousMay 28, 2008

    I definitely agree with items 1,2,3,5.

    As a previous poster noted, having proper documentation is essential too. That's sort of Occam's Razor for me: is a distro can't put in the work to produce documentation itself, I don't want to know about it.

    I'm afraid I'm a Linux end-user, and I have absolutely no time for the current thicket of "me-too" distros. I take no pleasure in messing with the OS internals. I usually interact with the KDE desktop, and that's it.

    I am able and willing to set up a pure command-line box (as a server or router), but then I want to just set up the darn thing, get it running, and forget about it (barring maintenance). When I do set up a box like that, I plan my setup using pencil, paper, books, and the docs and I want the distro to behave exactly as the documentation and the books say. If it doesn't, I'll wipe it.

    Items 4,6 are too subjective for me to subscribe to.

    Item 7 (trying to look like Mac OS or Windows Vista) is something I have no opinion about.

    I never use lightweight Windows managers: either I have a box that's a server in which case it it goes through life as a command-line only box, or I have a box I work with, in which case I consider lightweight windows managers a waste of time and will install KDE.

    Ad item 9: I tend to prefer using the manual (and I take a very dim view of any distribution that doesn't have one, which rather limits my choice of distros), so I don't often visit the website. But I agree: the single time I came across a website of the "RTFM" variety, I promptly wiped the distro and I don't want to hear about it again.

    Ad 10: I want on-line updates. If it hasn't got them I don't use the distro. I really can't be bothered to (a) scrounge for security fixes and (b) download and install them manually (barring grave exceptions).

    This is why I have no time for obscure new distros. Let others test it. If I hear it's good (nay, faultlessly excellent) I'll give it a spin, but otherwise I can't be bothered.

    From my point of view, 95% of the new small "me-too" distros are trash that I wouldn't want to waste time on. Suitable for hobbyists but not for people who want to get some serious use out of their hardware.

    My attitude might be a little unfriendly for all those hobbyists who slave away to come up with their own distro with heavens knows what gimmick, but then again why should I spend time on half-baked distros when there are about 3 good ones?

    I have choice and I exercise it by being choosy. Too bad for any distro that doesn't measure up.

  11. AnonymousMay 28, 2008

    And where are the distros that are not like that? Im still looking.

  12. AnonymousMay 28, 2008

    <10. It fails to give you necessary updates and security fixes.>

    ah, the one preinstall with eeepc

  13. AnonymousMay 29, 2008

    I had one that was very good but failed to install updates because it couldn't resolve dependencies for one, it just refused to do any others as well. Pity
    I found a new release had come out for a distro I have used for quite some time yesterday
    I forgave it in the past when I had to re-configure its x-server before it would find my flat panel monitor (don't you just hate it when they cant find or run the monitor at install)
    I forgave it when with the last upgrade it would never turn off the computer when you shut down (on the forum they thought there was no fix for this)
    I didn't forgive it yesterday when I installed the latest version and it didn't tell my monitor to look for a digital signal (I had to keep switching the monitor to digital manually or stare at a black screen) It wiped all my information off the computer after it was supposed to keep it during the upgrade (yes I did tick the box) and then even worse it failed to run My Epson printer no matter what I did. It had the correct drivers but would it make that printer print. Not a chance.
    I've bloody-mindedly installed the new version of mint and so far its found and is running everything.
    Now I wonder if that will last

  14. If you've ever installed Windows, it fails most of these.

  15. AnonymousMay 29, 2008

    @Greg P

    That's true. Windows is pure crap, period.

  16. AnonymousMay 29, 2008

    You wanna see a piece of crap distro (with one FUGLY website) you should try

  17. AnonymousMay 29, 2008

    Do you want me to tell you the anatomy of crappy post/article?

  18. Re: @Anonymous

    Do you want me to tell you the anatomy of crappy post/article?

    Yes, tell me please so that I could improve.


  19. AnonymousMay 29, 2008


    Talk about complaining...

    Does anyone remember using linux back in the late mid to late 90's?

    If you want to talk about buggy software, lack of driver support, not mention even finding a web page that had an answer to your problem ( that is IF you could get you could get your supposed OEM modem to work if it ).

    Most major distro's are a cakewalk
    to install and administrate compared to 10+ years ago.

    So my advice is stop complaing here and make post your problems with the distro to there site... Most coders are greatful when you find a problem with there software, especially in the open source community... Hint the word community this software is FREE. Remember that and remember it roots.

  20. AnonymousMay 30, 2008

    No software is perfect, it's just what works for you best.

  21. AnonymousMay 30, 2008

    7. It tries to look like Mac OS X or Windows Vista.

    Famelix. is a sux distro !

  22. The worst distro I have used was Ubuntu, namely the Edgy Eft version.

    It would NOT boot - only a black screen and a totally frozen system - unless I did some (a lot of) settings on the CMOS setup program, after installed it would suddenly reset the date/time to 1980 or 2029 or anything else.

  23. Hmm.... Lots of bad comments about Ubuntu Hardy(8.04). What's wrong with it? I've been using it since it came out and have not seen anything that is worth complaining about in a blog comment.

  24. Linux is the adventure to have a operating system where you really take the decisions. If you like that the operating system do all the work for you without thinking what are you doing then go back to windows any of the releases, please, stop complaining about it, windows is great for the people that do not want to interact and provide the direction the user or administrator wants.

    Now if you really like to learn, roll up your sleeves, think first before do the things, help others through solving problems, maybe hack the system the way you want, compile your own software, tweak the system so gets the best performance, then you are in the right path of Linux.

    There is no crappy releases of Linux what there is a lot is ignorant users. I have used Linux the last 12 years, It's been a while since I installed my first Linux and even through I spend something like a week to successfully install Linux slackware one of the very first Linux distros, I enjoyed every single moment because I learned a lot of things. All I can say is thanks that we have a choice in the world.


  25. I would add a section about distros that dont even try to make something visually pleasing.

    I remember the first time I dual booted Ubuntu/XP for friends and the ugly terminal like interface said 'bush league'.
    At the same time PCLinuxOS had this nice blue interface which didnt leave the user feeling as if they would have to use the command line.

    That is not even trying.

  26. Your definition of `crappy' doesn't even evaluate any of the serious distros, just the newbie's Linuces like Ubuntu, Fedora et al.

  27. >ugly terminal like interface
    >visually pleasing

    Goddamnit, the cancer that is killing my Unic/s/

  28. pfft. Look up PyroLinux. The guy who made it goes to my high-school. What a disgrace.

  29. believe it or not, but the crappies one so far for me has been Debian, and this is has been my first time trying to install it...I mean like ever before that I had Ubuntu 8.10, Opensuse 11.1, Fedora 10, and they all went nice and configured themselves out of the box on both my Dell XPS m1330 laptop, which is a demanding laptop because of its default media directories, or on my desktop which uses a wireless USB network adapter and they all worked fine. The one that gave me a crappy, oh I forgot about another great operating systems that showed unbelievable stability even though it came preinstalled with KDE 4.1 Mandriva. Mandriva is just SWEET, never had a problem with it. Anyhow, Debian, and I'm talking lenny...Just crap when it comes to wireless, I mean on both my desktop and my laptop it failed miserably to configure a wireless device during installation, and I honestly say it. I have been waiting for this Distro in particular for a long time, I just wanted to feel the grandiose of the grand daddy that gave us the infallible ubuntu, though I still believe that Fedora's stability is the best of them all, but I just wanted to give Debian a try and I was disappointed I mean what the !@#$ three years in the making and you couldn't come up with a better wireless support than "recompile from source" what the #$%^ I mean I was like ballistic. Why? and some people had problems with Mepis when it came to wireless why? most systems by now, even those that are simply made for USB keys and flashdrives have better driver compatibility. That irked me really good. Folks, the word is Operability, time spent recompiling from source, that's not our job. Simple as that, though I know many might disagree with me especially tinkeres who love distros like gentoo where they can tweak every single detail, but to the rest of us, me, I find it just useless why would I spend more time looking for a driver for my wireless USB network card under Debian in particular while it's configured automatically under all, and I mean all other Distros.

  30. I must agree with Anonymous right above. 3 years in the making and still no effortless WIFI. Failing grade in this kid's book.

    Mepis, a debian descendant, has great wireless.

  31. ... gotta say, my P4 likes windows. It never fails to install and run as advertised. I have tried MANY Linux distros and each one has failed to recognize ALL my hardware (windows has NEVER failed to recongize ALL my hardware). Very few of the distros I have tried will consistently boot every time; windows always does. What the hell. I really, really like Linux and I am trying REALLY HARD not to install windows again but, in a word, Linux has proven to be REALLY CRAPPY. This gives open source a REALLY BAD NAME.

    You might think I am a windows fan!? Well, I'm spending another few hours with another couple of Linux distros tonight because I still have LINUX FAITH. I hope this one doesn't let me down.

  32. ...gotta say, my P4 now likes Mandriva. Out of the box, pretty much everything works and all my hardware is recognized. You can tell I'm not very savvy with editing config files because I would have had other distros working before this. Mandriva, much like a lot of other distros, is easy for a Linux USER to use. Once I'm a Linux POWER USER, I will have to re-try some of the other distros I initially liked better (like PCLOSGnome and XUbuntu). In any case, I'm having a lot of fun rambling around and learning about Linux in general and Mandriva specificially. No more crap!