If you check the thread I linked to you will see how I documented an adventure of mine looking for a specific tiny app (and it's source code and a way to re-compile it easily)
I'm not surprised by any of it. And that was a straight compile as-is. It reminds me of the time where I wanted to get my Alfa AWUS036H wifi card working on Linux. First, you have to chose between between 2 drivers, either:
-rtl8187, which mostly works (lacking some features still) but namely doesn't let you control power (making my Alfa card 100% pointless), or:
-r8187, which lets you control power and do absolutely everything you want with it.... except connect to a WPA-protected AP (bah, not like you want internet, right?)
To swap between the 2 broken drivers, you have to wget & untar the sources for the driver, wget 2 or 3 different patches (which of course vary depending on which kernel you're using, among other things), and apply them, rmmod the old driver, manually add several entries to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf, make/make install/make unload, modprobe, etc. While using half-working instructions from various forums -- while you have no internet on that box (better wget everything you may need and all dependencies first!) This finally allows you to use a command line utility (iwpriv, there's no GUI of course) to change a value which will then let you use iwconfig (again, no GUI) to manually change the power level... assuming you've already written some scripts to change the CRDA. Hours of fun in a terminal window for half-working wifi.
Under Windows, the driver has one of those newfangled GUIs. And it has one of those slider controls to adjust the power and an "Apply" button next to it, and it just works. You can even connect to an AP that uses WPA or WPA2, so amazing! Installing the driver required clicking on next twice and then finish, or something like that.
Getting Intel HD audio working over spdif was just about the same story: wget/untar/recompile source for alsa-driver, alsa-lib and alsa-utils (./configure, make, make install). Then edit a configuration file (alsa-base.conf) trying different values somewhat randomly, reboot, see if works and if not try another value and reboot, and possibly having to unmute the IEC958 output from alsa-mixer which is a clunky command-line audio mixer) whereas under Windows, there's a "use digital/spdif output" checkbox and that's all you need to do.
Basic things like that always seem to require so much work. You eventually tire of it.
Then you have the "direct derivatives" basically you take a "main" distribution, you remove something, you add something else, you change it's name and voilà, here is a brand new (senseless) distro, which has more or less the same functionalities of the "main" one but soon will become (or already is) partially or totally incompatible with the "original"
Agreed. There's far too many distros out there
, most of which are just about a straight copy of another distro but with perhaps a new desktop environment (gnome/kde/xfce...) and a new theme. Most of them have the same basic problems anyway.
I've heard it said that Linux is for people who'd rather put their own cars together out of parts...
Or people who don't mind having to disassemble and reassemble their car rotated to turn corners
My needs aren't (it seems) as specialized as yours, so I may be able to get away with some flavor of Linux.
That's the saving grace for a lot of Linux users. You don't need any specialized software for anything and don't play games? It'll work I guess.
the occasional but still important need to edit PDF files or extract specific pages from a PDF
That's pretty basic usage as far as PDFs go. I commonly deal with PDFs that contain 3D content (that you can rotate on any axis and hide parts of) and layers, or running preflight checks on PDF/X files to send out for printing (and do some proofing with them), or to de-skew & OCR scanned documents (from our copier than scans in PDF format directly to a network share), making extensive use of the annotation tools on translated documents (commenting/pointing out errors), using the "edit object" tool to make some changes to PDFs (and even edit parts with Adobe Illustrator because Acrobat just can't do some changes by itself), using digital signatures in engineering documents passed around via email, and I even open them in Photoshop sometimes. That kind of stuff. If you got needs like that then Acrobat's the only game in town and that means Windows or Macs only.
CPU speed, RAM, and storage. In that spec box, these were, respectively, 1GHz, 1GB, and 16GB (up to 64GB)
I understand that. Just "1GHz" by itself means nothing at all. They're completely
different processor architectures (x86 vs ARM), with different numbers of cores, etc. Of course it's no i7 but it's not like a P3 either. 1GB isn't much at all for a desktop but it's not like you'll be doing a lot of heavy multitasking on a tablet (it's enough and it's also more than any other tablet as far as I know). Storage space wise you can't expect too much from a device that uses flash memory -- just look at flash-based MP3 players. You won't mind too many with more than 64GB -- probably none (unless you want a hard drive in it). I mean, it's enough for things like 1080p video chat or playing nice 3D games like Mass Effect
or Dead Space on it. It's definitely not the same as a powerful desktop but other tablets are far worse.