7 things Linux users still can't do

As a die-hard Linux user I’ve had moments when, much as I hate to admit it, I have felt compelled to turn to Mac OS X or Windows to do something my Linux box can't do. None of this is due to any limitations of Linux as a platform. The problem lies with software developers and content providers.

A sad Linux user

Not for you, Linux user

UPDATE: Slide 5 was updated on 5/4/15 to remove a reference to Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime can, in fact, be played on Linux after installing some extra plugins.

I kind of brag about the fact that there is nothing beyond the reach of Linux users. My editor challenged me on this, so I set out on a quest to find an answer and I was surprised to discover a few things that stymie Linux users.

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No Photoshop for Linux users

Use PhotoShop

The moment you mention Photoshop you will have enthusiastic Linux users telling you that you don't need PhotoShop for image editing and GIMP would do fine. But that's not entirely true for all users. It depends heavily on what you do with your images.

GIMP is a great image editing tool and I use it for most of my image editing. It offers more than enough basic image editing capabilities for the average user.

However, yes there is a however, when it comes to more creative and demanding work, I tend to use Photoshop in tandem with LightRoom on a Mac OS X system.

There are hundreds and thousands of plugins, filters, extensions, actions and add-on software, like Nik Software, that make PS the best of the breed application. GIMP is undoubtedly great software for hobbyists or casual users, but for professionals Photoshop and Lightroom are the right tools. The lack of CMYK support in GIMP alone keeps it out of the professional market.

No Adobe Premiere for Linux users

Use Adobe Premiere

I am a trained photographer and film-editor. Lack of professional grade, feature rich video editing tools is another drawback for Linux as a platform. For Linux users there are many open source film editing applications, including Kdenlive and Open Shot. I use Kdenlive for simple, short, cut-to-cut tutorials of Linux, but for any complex projects I pan to Adobe Premiere.

When I did my filmmaking course I was trained on Final Cut Pro so I am fully aware what tools you need for producing a film. There is no scope for compromise when you are making a 45 minute long film that uses more than 5 hours of footage and spans across more than 5 video tracks; you need the best tool for the job.

That's the second reason I use Mac OS X.

Serious gamers don't use Linux

Play serious games

I used to be a gamer and my Amazon account still has digital copies of Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Crysis. I haven't touched those for almost five years now. There are two reasons I'm not a gamer anymore: 1) I don't have time to play computer games; 2) These games are not available for Linux, so I can't play them even during a break from work.

I am aware of Linux users who dualboot with Windows just to play such games. You may argue there is Steam for Linux by Valve. But most popular games, like the ones I mentioned above, are not there. Even Valve for Linux doesn't have all the titles that are available for Windows.

So serious gamers still go to Windows for gaming.

Netflix is available on Linux, not so HBO Go

Watch streaming video content

Thanks to Google Chrome, Netflix is now available on Linux, but other streaming services, like HBO Now, are still not available on Linux.

HBO is among those players who still use ancient technologies such as Flash or SilverLight to stream content. These technologies are on their way out and are not supported on Linux.

If you want to be able to access their content you have to use either Windows or Mac OS X.

Linux users can't use Google Drive

Use Google Drive

I wonder what kind of technical challenges are stopping Google from launching a Google Drive client for Linux. There are much smaller companies that are capable of offering Linux clients for their cloud storage and sync services.

What makes matters worse is that Google engineers repeatedly told users that a Linux client is in the works. By now, Linux users have given up any hope on having a Google Drive client for their platform. There are better chances of an alien invasion than Google Drive for Linux.

There are third party paid clients like inSync that can talk to Google drive, but they add extra cost, if you are a paid user of Drive just to be able to use Drive on Linux.

Linux users can't use iTunes

Use iTunes

Now that's absurd. Why would someone want a bloated app like iTunes on Linux? Those who have a heterogenous environment and use a mix of technologies. While it's extremely easy to connect Android with a Linux box, doing so with an iOS device is next to impossible.

While you can connect the iPad to a Linux system and access the iPad from file managers like Files, you can't copy any content to the iPad. iOS won't detect/recognize the Linux system and you won't be able to access content on it. You can't just copy paste content to the iOS device and use it.

Apple is a champion of vendor lock-in, and iTunes is the only gateway to transfer data between iOS devices and your PC. Without iTunes, Linux users are totally locked out of their iOS devices, literally. While Android does have apps like AirDroid that make such a task a breeze, iOS lacks any such app.

There are apps like FileApp for iOS, but they are extremely limited and can share only the 'download' folder between Linux and iOS, thus making it painful to use.

What's even more frustrating is that even if you use FileApp to transfer any movie or image to the iPad only this app will be able to access such content. No other app, such as VLC or the built in Movie or Audio player will be able to access such content.

It’s Apple!

horse cart

Use Internet Explorer

That's not absurd. That's insane. Internet Explorer for Linux? Does anyone use it anymore? Even Windows users prefer Chrome or Firefox over Internet Explorer. Why would Linux users bother about it?

Well, I didn't really care about it either until I got a 'support' call from my wife. She was applying for a job and the site required IE. I changed the user agent on my Linux box but it didn't work. I had to fire up Windows in a virtual machine so that she could fill out the form.

I took the matter to Google+ and discovered there are many agencies and HR departments still living in the prehistoric age, using ancient technologies to recruit talent in 2015.

Other things Linux can't do

And another thing...

There are many more popular apps that are not yet available for Linux.

When I asked for examples on my Google+ page, people pointed out that there is no decent UI designing software for Linux and they have to use Windows to use Sketch, Skala Preview, etc. Working with PDFs where you may have to fill out forms can also be a challenging task on Linux.

Someone else pointed out lack of good Taxation software such as Tax Cut.

What's next for Linux users

What's next for Linux users?

None of this is due to any limitation of Linux as a platform. Google can very easily create a client for Linux. Other players are doing so. HBO and Amazon can use modern technologies like HTML5 and expand their user-base. Netflix and Hulu are doing so.

Will the situation change one day? Maybe? Ironically enough, thanks to Google's Chrome, Linux users are able to access many services.

Currently Canonical is the only player who has invested, and continues to invest, in the desktop while biggies like RedHat and SUSE have washed their hands of ‘consumer’ or desktop Linux and focus solely on the enterprise segment. Google has managed to convince players like Adobe to bring their software to Chrome OS, even if it may have a smaller market than Ubuntu.

Canonical may need to learn the art of collaborating with such players. Or maybe Canonical doesn’t see much potential in the desktop space. Meanwhile, both Apple and Google are extremely eager to exploit the golden opportunity presented by Windows' declining market share.

Canonical could have exploited the situation and grabbed the market share. They seemed to have missed the bus. Unless there is a market that Canonical can show to biggies like Adobe, they are not bringing their tools to Linux users.

The twist in the story is that when I am on my Mac, editing some images or working on videos, I run a Linux system either in a virtualbox or x-forward the ssh session from my local Linux server, because Mac OS X simply doesn't have the best of the breed apps and tools that Linux has.