Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

Summary: New motto: For all of us who have lives, there's Windows.


This is a rant. But I'm so angry and frustrated right now that you're just going to have to live with the rant. And, for you Linux people, you who know it all and look down upon the people who don't spend day and night breathing in the insane arcana of all the little fiddly bits that make up modern distros, I have this to say: I don't have your kind of time.

I've had it. I've had it with all the patched together pieces and parts that all have to be just the right versions, with just the right dependencies, compiled in just the right way, during just the right phase of the moon, with just the right number of people tilting left at just the right time.

I've had it with all the different package managers. With some code distributed with one package manager and other code distributed with other package managers. With modules that can be downloaded on Ubuntu just by typing the sequence in the anemic how-to, but won't work at all on CentOS or Fedora, because the repositories weren't specified in just, exactly, EXACTLY, the right frickin' order on the third Wednesday of the month.

I've had it with all the different shells and UIs. With builds and distros that won't even launch into a UI until you've established a solid SSH connection, downloaded all the parts, recompiled the package manager, and then -- while the network connection happens almost like magic -- still need to completely set up a remote monitor screen by tweaking yet. Another. Frak-lapping. Ini. File.

I've had it with the fact that this stuff doesn't work reliably. Oh, sure, if you work with Linux every hour of every day, if this is all you do, and all you love, if you've never had a date since you grew that one facial hair, if you've never had any other responsibility in your entire life, then you know every bit of every undocumented piece of folklore. You know which forums and which forum posters have the very long and bizarre command line that only. That. One. Guy. Knows.

And you know that if you type that command line in on, say, Distro version 4.3, it'll work, but it'll break miserably on version 4.3a, because THAT version requires a completely different entire program, packaged with a completely different package manager, and THAT command line sequence can be gotten by getting on just the right IRC channel, at just the right time of night, and talking just the right way, to that one incredibly self-absorbed luser who happens to know that you need to put the undocumented -lM in front of the fourth parameter.

And woe be it to the unfortunate fool who gets the capitalization wrong, because putting an -Lm in front of the fourth parameter does a completely different, and even further undocumented, and possibly dangerous-to-the-entire planet sort of thing, because, well, "you shoulda known!".

Why have I had it, you ask?

I've had it because after spending months jumping through all those hoops, and more, feeling like I had to pass through all four levels of Ninja Warrior and climb to the top of Mount Midoriyama, just to be allowed to launch frickin' VNC in a GUI or load the backup program I use on all the other machines on my network... after all that, the stupid, horrible, nasty, back-stabbing, disloyal, hodge-podge, disorganized, unsupervised, chaotic craptasm that's called Linux... after I got the whole thing working, it crashed.

Oh, and it didn't crash easy. See, I was done. I was getting ready to deploy my server. I just wanted to do a last-minute update because I'm a good frickin' doobie and I do my updates. So when Gnome said there were updates to apply, I said okay.

Can you imagine my rank naivety here? I actually said Okay to a Linux update. I know I should have known better. I know I should have, instead, formatted another hard drive, dd'd my furry little pile of files over, downloaded the source tarball, compiled everything all over again, prayed to Linus, turned my back to Redmond, and built my entire operating system up from scratch, just to install some security updates.

But I didn't. I figured that after all these years, Linux was finally robust enough to not rip me a new one because I just wanted to run a server and keep it up to date. Silly me! Silly, silly me!

So I ran the update process. And it died. Abnormal exception.

And there went all my work and all my time. Down the drain.

Now, it won't boot.

Worse, the box is co-located at my ISP, so I had to make a begging plea, requesting they please rebuild my drives and please reinstall my OS. I'm fortunate it was still a box in staging, that I wasn't running live systems on it, or I'd be completely and totally screwed, rather than just pissed off to the point of spitting.

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Now, despite what I'm sure you commenters will say, I'm no tech babe in the woods. I've been a UNIX product manager, I've written kernel code, and I've taught programming at the college level. But the problem with today's modern Linux is that it's more than just the kernel. It's an amalgamation of thousands of crufty pieces, all stapled together, most of which work for only one specific combination of moving parts. Mismatch anything, and the entire tower of cards falls to pieces.

Sure, Linux machines can make great servers. But they require a dedicated group of Linux groupies who know all the folklore, all the secret handshakes, and where all the bodies are buried.

Me, I'm just a busy dude with other stuff to do. I just need to feed some Web pages and run my programs. I don't have the time to do the dance of blood it takes to truly be one with the Linux culture.

I've had it. Oh, sure, I'll still run some turnkey appliances based on Linux in VMs that I can backup, snapshot, and restore in a heartbeat, but for the core engine that drives my servers, I am -- from now on -- all Windows, all the time.

I just can't afford to waste any more time with Linux. Not when -- by design -- everything is held together with toothpicks, duct tape, and bailing wire.

No way. You couldn't pay me to run Linux on my raw iron.

Never again.

Update after I've calmed down

I talked with my ISP today. They told me that when they came in this morning, the server monitor was spewing an incredible number of error messages, and -- in their words -- it was erroring worse than they've ever seen.

Here's where it gets crazy, though. I asked if they used this distro (CentOS, version 5.6) anywhere else in their organization.

"Yes," I was told. "On lots of machines. But we don't ever run updates. Once it's installed, we leave it alone."

That's how you survive with a Linux distro apparently. Once it's installed and works, never, ever update it.

If that is, in fact, how other ISPs are managing their Linux-based machines, that means they're not updating their systems as new security exploits become known. In order to prevent their machines from becoming radioactive piles of rubble because a simple update was initiated, they're leaving their machines (and their customers) open to all sorts of malicious attacks.

In my professional (and slightly more lucid opinion), Linux is a fine operating system. It is a robust operating system. It is a flexible operating system. Just not all three. It can't be fine, flexible, and robust.

Try that, and the Earth will open up and swallow you whole.

See also: Why Ubuntu 11.10 fills me with rage

Oh, and one last point. Don't go telling me I don't know what I'm doing, because that proves my case against Linux. I know quite well what I'm doing, but not to the level that is apparently required to keep a simple LAMP machine running.

For all of us who have lives, there's Windows.

Go. Comment away. At this point, I just don't care.

Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Servers, Windows


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

    I know people that use Linux because they pay for Windows Servers. I ask them "How much you're saving?" They usually say something from a few hundred bucks up to a few thousand. Then I ask my second question "How much is your hourly rate?" You get the point?

    Hardware, licenses etc are cheap, skilled labor is the main cost in IT operations. And Windows is much much more easier to manage, no matter what kind of Linux guru you are.
    The cloud guy
    • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

      @hakanern Have you looked @ the cost of licenses, the software budget easily out does the labor budget @ least @ the enterprise level.
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

        @mrlinux +1
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

        Most folks would rather pay a premium for something that works versus get something for less that they have to spend their time making it work, and worrying that it's going to stop working.

        Not to mention possible lost revenue when it crashes. And at the enterprise level, you have to worry about other financial liabilities.
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows


        And on an enterprise level most firms want RedHat once you throw in that the cost savings may or may not be there. It certainly is not the large amount some folks claim.
      • Just works?

        Pardon me while I vomit in my Australian neighbour's beer. You're saying Windows "just works" with a straight face? Next you'll be saying up is down.
        • Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works....

          Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works, Windows just works, Windows just works,Windows just works...and it works great.

          Now go ahead and vomit away if thats how you deal with stark reality.

          Knock yourself out man.
        • It does just work... reliably and all the time.

          I have to agree with Mr. Gerwitz... I have had it with Linux, too. Over the years I have used SUSE, Fedora, CentOS, PCLinuxOS, Debian and others... they are supposed to be oh-so reliable. I have found that the ONLY operating system I can really depend on day in and day out is Microsoft Windows. I have older laptops running Windows XP, a newer one using Windows 7 and a desktop on Windows 8... I have no problems with any of them and no problems going back and forth. All of them work after updating and programs work consistently. (I will grant you that I had to do a little tweaking on Windows 8, but I have had no trouble and it is used every day.)Yes, Windows just works.
      • Some facts and figures.

        @mrlinux I am responsible for software licensing and also hardware purchasing where I work so I know what I'm talking about here. You are correct that software licensing is a huge cost for any business. But for us it is number 2. Number 1 is salaries, 2 is software licensing and a very very distant third place is hardware.<br><br>However...out of those licensing costs, number 1 is licensing for enterprise applications like Electronic Document Management (EDMS) and maintenance on our other non-Microsoft applications. Our Microsoft licensing is a tiny fraction of our total licensing bill.<br><br>Some other facts. <br>1. The cost of putting windows on a server is minimal. We are in a VMware VM environment and buy a Windows Data Center edition license for each hardware box that allows us to run as many Windows servers as the hardware will support. Even with that top end Windows License, we are still paying VMWare more for that box than we are Microsoft. <br>2. Windows Client Access Licenses (CAL's) cost you more than the actual server (by far) which is an are where Linux comes out ahead...sort of. Thing is, if a particular desktop has a Windows Server Cal, there is no restriction on the number of Windows Servers it can connect to. So if you have one Windows server, you end up with CAL's but those CAL's are then a sunk cost when you start talking about adding more Windows VM's. Basically, if I need to add an additional Windows VM, the cost to add that one more is zero additional licensing because a) its covered under the Data Center license the hardware already has and b) each desktop user already has a CAL.<br>3. As far as labor goes, there is very little involved. My Windows Server VM's basically run for months on end without ever causing a problem. They usually do reboot once per month when we do the monthly Microsoft Updates. But you should be doing regular updates regardless of what OS you are running and Microsoft's automated tools for updating it's own products is really quite good. Also, all but our most critial systems (like the DB server for example) do this automatically, after hours, so there is no labor involved anyway.<br><br>The whole point of this being that both the cost in $$ and the cost in labor for acquiring and managing Windows Servers ends up being an insignificant percentage of our budget. Now, some of the non-Mircrosoft software running ON those Windows servers....that's where our real expense lies.
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

        Sorry but even with enterprise software it is the soft costs of maintenance and administration that are major cost centers. Linux is alive and well and will not go away because too many consultants make a living off giving you the software and selling you their services.
      • One more time since you missed it the first time...

        geoff@ Yes it is software that is the biggest cost. But no, it is not Microsoft that our money is going to. It is the vendors of other software that happens to use Windows as its OS.

        An example would be Oracle Databases (though we do not happen to use Oracle). Oracle licensing costs have nothing whatever to do with what OS the database is running on. You can run Oracle on Windows, Linux, or Unix and the cost for those Oracle licenses is the same regardless. Like I said, we don't use Oracle (I use it as an example because its a name everyone will recognize) but it demonstrates the point.

        And as I also pointed out, the labor that goes into supporting our Windows Servers is as near zero as any OS can be. Just as with the licensing costs, the labor is going into supporting the various software packages and applications that happen to run ON windows. Not windows or any other Microsoft product.
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

        @chopperdude6 you've just summed up exactly what I think .... about Windows. In the years I had both Linux and Windows servers running, those (and the OP's) were all the problems I had with Windows - our Linux servers just sat and quietly chugged along requiring minimal intervention apart from havaing to run updates. It was much the same as the OPs server - running LAMP and connecting into our SQL database. Our Windows servers need rebooting at least once a month, or they started slowing down or randomly started going wrong - I agree that staff costs are a significant chunk of the requirements, but even if all the installation and knowledge costs were the same, our Windows servers were far more "expensive" in unplanned downtime, our maintenace time, etc. If it's for a commercial environment and you aren't a guru, use a distro that has a support infrastructure in place, let's face it, it's unlikely to uncompetitive with the cost of buying windows servers licences, CALs, etc. Stop blaming others for your own lack of understanding, planning and roll-out strategy.
      • Down time costs must be considered


        I'm in healthcare, and when there have been problems in the HP Unix side (yeah HP Unix), dozens if not hundreds of users are impacted - they get kicked out of their systems, they cannot authenticate.

        I agree that the license costs are high but at that level you are looking at MS SQL or perhpas Oracle. You are looking at Red Hat or perhaps Unix....you are not looking at freebies like crummy old Linux distros.

        So then license costs are on a more level playing field. Then factor in the cost of down time due to brittle *nix environments the costs are for us MUCH, MUCH, MUCH higher when there is a *nix issue - which happens far more often than Windows with wide spread impact.
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

        @mrlinux I find this hard to believe, as Windows server licenses are in the few hundreds of dollars for web servers. You burn through that in 2 -5 hours of professional IT labor cost.

        But perhaps where you have a core team of dedicated admins, a LARGE number of servers, and strict, disciplined practices that keep man hours way down, it just may be true that TCO manages not to explode.

        But for the smaller shops - oh, say the millions of businesses who are not themselves IT shops, and for whom IT is a commodity that has to WORK, there is no economical justification for linux. Where I've seen that work, there is a linux hobbyist in the shop keeping it running, effectively at no IT cost. This is of course not a reproducable or scalable business configuration.

        I work mostly for startups that develop software (and are thus NOT (I repeat, "not") IT shops), we need stuff that just works with minimal attention, and despite wishing to save on server licenses, we've just found that Windows Servers really are set and forget. Updates happen and work, and we've never been hacked successfully (despite literally hundreds of thousands of rejected attempts documented in logs).

        And I was a serious Unix guy. I love the nuts and bolts, and the potential of technology underlying Linux. But the author's point is not the technology of the OS - it is the nature of the open source initiative itself - no accountability, documentation residing in the heads of just a few individuals, breaking changes that are not mentioned clearly.

        To be sure, many software packages suffer from this, including various applications. But Linux strives for credibility, especially in non-IT enterprises, and can't match Windows server in terms of the very limited amount of ongoing care needed to keep the servers running and updated.

        I'm curious how the Linux community addresses this. Will it by by denial ("you guys just don't put in the time to learn it" - or some other attack back), or by actually having some key members step up to the plate and run interference on undocumented changes and the other things the author mentions?
      • What kind of projects are you working on?


        I've just completed an estimate for a small client to implement some additional portions of an ERP system. The software and licensing costs are sitting at just under $15k and the implementation labour costs are at nearly $60k.

        This is the norm, not the exception. It maybe a little different on some of the projects you work on, but ERP systems are definitely in the realm of "enterprise software".
      • RE: Why I've finally had it with my Linux server and I'm moving back to Windows

        @mrlinux Oh no it doesn't! Don't forget, enterprises get massive discounts on licenses.
      • MrLinux failed to mention an important point!

        With respect to your opinion, MrLinux, you left a VERY important variable out of your post when you compared the cost of enterprise level licenses vs. running Linux. That variable is DOWNTIME! Anytime those Linux computers crash or have unpatched holes, those companies are losing money while they pay their Linux gurus who DO know how to dance the wolf dance during the third full moon while Venus dances during the equinox, etc. ad nauseum.

        I LOVE to sit down at my computer and figure things out. I started with an Apple //e the moved to IBM. I toyed with Linux, but just like the author: I don't have time to learn a new dance every time a new song is released.

        Computers are my passion, my hobby, and my current area of study. I enjoy troubleshooting. However, my experience with Linux has taught me that I simply lack the time, as mentioned above, to spend time digging out some arcane command line that must be done while ensuring the squeek in my desk chair squeeks in B-Flat.

        In closing, I'd like to add the I'm fully comfortable working with a command-line interface. That being said, I hear over and over (from those who spent inordinate amounts of time learning those arcane commands) that it's worth it. Well, perhaps to you. To me, rather than try Linux again, I think I'd find a cavity search by a large, unattractive TSA
        agent who puts his hands on my shoulders and says: "Just call me Sally" quite a bit more enjoyable. 'Nuff said.

        (apologies for the innuendos. I kept the language clean, though!)

      • Actually, where I work we did look at licenses


        We still buy Windows because Linux is so labor intensive. Windows may not be as technologically advanced, but believe it or not, it does work and we have over 1000 servers, all Windows.
      • Do you pay your people five dollars an hour?

        have you looked at the cost of Red Hat support?
        John Zern
      • I can see you have not used Windows


        Even the issues with MS servers are nothing compared to Linux Servers.

        I have never had anywhere near the issues with Windows that the author just reported on with his Linux server.

        Windows just works.
        John Zern