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Dedoimedo has an excellent commentary of the state of the Linux desktop.

He notes that usability has plateaued in many ways. I agree. The basic functionality and speed I had with Xubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) was stellar. Now running Xubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa) on both newer and faster desktop and laptop computers, I have had problems with graphics cards, samba networking is a bust that I work around, and connecting my iPhone for file transfers is hit or miss.

Yes, the world is not standing still. Linux systems like Xubuntu are actually undergoing massive changes through updates to the xfce window manager while still trying to retain the same general look and functionality. That kind of work is much harder that simply creating something new (like restoring an old house with good bones than building a new house on an empty lot). But, that hard work does not mean longstanding defects should remain. A remodeling job for a house is still incomplete if the electrical wiring is exposed or the finish carpentry is not in place.

Note: In contrast to Dedoimeda’s review of Xubuntu 20.04, the limitations with the current version are not a problem for how I have set up my computers. And, I value the hardware control and compatibility I get with this version of Xubuntu. For instance, whereas Kubuntu has no obvious method for adjusting sound inputs and hardware, I have obvious access through Xubuntu’s PulseAudio plugin on my panel.

The splintering that occurs in Linux systems with new distributions and spin offs popping up all over the place — a major factor in Dedoimeda’s criticism — is surely an important reason for why the edges are more frayed today than they were a few years ago. Some self-discipline and focus is needed in the world of Linux, just as self-discipline and focus is needed in most of life.

An example of this concentrated focus and so deserving of praise is LibreOffice. On my setup without the ribbon but with traditional menus and one toolbar customized with the formatting tools I use, LibreOffice has been a joy to use with the newer versions (currently running v.6.4.6.2).

Finally, it should also be pointed out that usability has seemingly plateaued on other operating systems as well.

I still have a Mac for the family computer, and more and more software is broken on the current version — Catalina/10.15 — without much if any additional benefit. Snow Leopard/10.6 was a model of stability and design, and in general the Mac has yet to repeat that performance.

My daughters want to game, and so they both now have Windows 10 desktops. Certainly more software is available on Windows 10 than either MacOS or Linux systems. But, Windows 10 remains a complete kludge in many ways, with both new and old (aka Windows 7) design elements remaining throughout. For instance, there are Settings but also many vital settings still must be set via the Control Panel. Why? How can these dual settings systems still exist?