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On Linux + Open Source Tees that Don't Suck

 
Patriotic Mucus
 

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Kindle Actually 77 Year Old Concept
 

Kindle Actually 77 Year Old Concept

 

Ubuntu sucks. I hate Linux!

(Click here to watch my short video version.)

I slumped over my keyboard, frustrated and defeated. After an untold number of attempts, I finally came to the realization that I could not salvage my dying laptop with the tools at my disposal. Windows XP had become corrupted after numerous freezes and could not be booted, and my every attempt to copy the files was met with further freezes. Desperate, I turned to an operating system that to date I had never even contemplated based on what I had heard about it – Linux. I downloaded and burned a Live CD of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron), and inserted it into the disk drive. I had no idea what was in store for me.


———-

I am a fairly technically-minded person; like many people who grew up playing computer games at a young age, I learned to both tweak my machine to eek out as much performance as possible, and play around with the nuts and bolts of my operating system (DOS, at the beginning) and my hardware. Computer gaming was, and remains to an extent, synonymous with being a computer geek, in that what drives computer game players to succeed in the games themselves tends to drive them to gain an edge through manipulation of their technical environment.

A gamer takes an avid interest in hardware and software because computers are not standard; they are built with different hardware that provides different performance and non-standard features, so software does not always work on all configurations. New games push the performance envelope, and thus the gamer is by necessity encouraged to become an expert on the latest hardware and software, and is financially incented to learn how to, if not build a machine from the ground up, at least be able to upgrade pieces of it by him or herself. As a part of this, gamers tend to take to new applications like fish to water, learning them by playing with them, in a process very similar to enjoying a new game.

So it was with relatively little trepidation that I approached running a new operating system for the first time. I learned DOS, Windows 3.1/95/98/NT/ME/2000/XP, and older versions of Mac O/Ss, so how hard could Ubuntu Linux be? My first experience was a positive one, from the standpoint of someone using a new tool to accomplish a task – save my computer. The live CD of Hardy Heron had my dying Hewlett Packard Pavilion ZE2000 purring like a kitten, even running off of the CD Drive. I had no wireless, but I didn’t care because everything else worked perfectly; even viewing NTFS data without a hitch. I quickly salvaged all of my valuable data, stored it on an external drive, and began playing with the new OS. As a tech geek I loved the power at my fingertips, and as a PC owner I loved that my laptop stayed alive through the process, overnight, and into the next day. I decided then and there to install it and not look back.

As I shifted focus to evaluating Ubuntu from the standpoint of everyday use, my first impressions were very different. Tasks that I found to be very simple in Windows seemed very cryptic in Linux. A lot of things relied on the command line interface, or were actually easier to accomplish with the CLI than with the various graphical user interfaces also available. There was no commercial support available to me – to find help I joined a forum full of eager amateurs, but finding information when I didn’t know what I was looking for was like, if you will forgive the cliché, finding a needle in a haystack. Things often didn’t work straight away, and required tinkering within the terminal once specific instructions could be found to address the problem. Sadly, one of Linux’s greatest strengths, the fact that you can achieve one task in a myriad of ways and with a variety of different applications, left me feeling lost and confused. I had no direction, no idea where to start; I did, at one point, think “Ubuntu sucks, I hate Linux,” out of frustration.

There has been quite a bit of debate recently about whether or not Linux should become more like Windows. Linux is gaining some ground in a market in which it has not traditionally done well; on the desktops and laptops of more casual users. With the realization that it can indeed compete against Windows and Mac operating systems comes debate over how to grow its market acceptance. Observers have suggested that Linux development has to recognize its differences from Windows and bridge that gap. The Linux community has been understandably up in arms at this suggestion; Windows represents the antithesis of the open source movement, and the community wants to celebrate the differences between Linux and Windows rather than marginalize them.

On the other hand a strong argument can be made that the casual user won’t even bother to try Linux, much less adopt it, unless this gap is reduced: The argument is that Linux will never gain the market share it deserves unless developers acknowledge this. Each distrubtion of Linux has a different focus, and another strength of the community is that distributions become diversified, meeting different needs. Companies like Canonical (developers of Ubuntu) have recognized the Windows-Linux gap and are tailoring their distributions so that new users can more easily make the transition. There seem to be very few drawbacks to steering individual distributions toward a very Windows-like look and feel. If a Linux user does not want this Windows-like experience, there are plenty of distributions to meet their needs, including the ability to build their own Linux operating system from scratch.

I believe that asking “Should Linux become more like Windows?” is asking the wrong question. I think it is clear that Linux has never had a better opportunity than now to make huge strides in the market. With the abject failure of Windows Vista, Microsoft seems more vulnerable than ever. Most distributions of Linux are free, and major hardware manufacturers are ramping up support for Linux. Netbooks and mini PCs seem to be a special area of interest for Linux developers; Linux takes advantage of system resources much better than Windows, and takes up much less overhead.

The question that Linux developers should be asking is not how to become more like Windows, but how to address the specific needs of average Windows users in adopting Linux as their everyday operating system. The majority of computer users are familiar with and comfortable working within Windows. However, Linux is not Windows. Linux will never be Windows. Users simply will not have an experience like moving from XP to Vista in moving from any version of Windows to Linux.

Having said this, the casual computer user has needs that can be addressed. John and Susan Jones from Champaign, Illinois are less interested in the wonderful features that their computer has to offer than they are having the computer just work for what they want to do. They don’t want to have to mess around with technical support, detailed configuration or programming, or installing and working with drivers. Ideally, they turn on their computer and it instantly works for them to complete whatever task they wish it to complete. For the casual, average PC user, simplicity and reliability are top priorities.

The computer that just works in all things is a panacea, and unlikely to be realized in the near future. So users who need to take more complex actions or are faced with more in-depth situations can, and should, be addressed through better education. While Linux will never be Windows, the Linux community can provide documentation that is geared toward Windows users. Currently there is a wealth of information gathered to describe how to do things. A casual user wants to know more than just how to do something – he or she needs some direction on what can be done and why to do it.

Fast forward from my struggles with XP to the Linux shangri-la I find myself in today. I have moved completely off of Windows to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on two of my household’s PCs, including my ill-fated Pavilion (which is now running strong thanks to Linux) and my file server, and have set up dual-booting with Windows on four others, including my primary gaming rig. As a technical user my investment in learning how to install, configure, and work with Linux has been returned ten-fold. I can’t think of a single task other than high-end gaming that I can’t do in Ubuntu that I could do in Windows, and it is far more secure for things like web browsing (browsing with javascript turned off in Windows can be very frustrating, even if necessary). I guess you could say I am a true convert.

If I had approached Linux with the mindset of a casual user, I can’t say I would have moved past “Ubuntu sucks, I hate Linux!” I can see why the Joneses would be put off in attempting to use Linux, but I don’t see it as a lost cause. I think a focus on the following areas would greatly enhance its potential for market acceptance:

Continued development of Windows “look & feel” distributions. Ubuntu is a great example of a distribution moving toward being “easy” for the Windows user to accept. The ability to run off of a Windows drive, dual-boot, boot from a Live CD, the packaged software, and the familiar interface are all factors that make Ubuntu a great choice for the casual Windows user.

Creating documentation/guides to address what someone can do with Linux and why to take actions, not just how to take them. There is an incredible (and overwhelming for the new user) amount of information on how to do various things. What could help casual users be more accepting is a focus on explaining what is possible, and why he or she would choose each of the various options available to them to perform any specifc task. Also useful would be readily available, in-depth looks at what someone would do each day in Windows juxtaposed with the what, why, and how of doing the same things in Linux.

Providing a GUI to address each task that can be done in the CLI. Casual Windows users do not want to learn bash, or learn anything about the CLI. In Windows using the CLI is a last resort. Windows users are oblivious that their comfy GUI hides files that perhaps could be manipulated more easily in a CLI, and they like it that way. While many Linux users would find that a GUI just gets in the way and adds unnecessary overhead (and will always have the CLI as an option), for casual Windows users the lack of a GUI for basic tasks is a huge detriment. Additionally, guides that rely on CLI commands are confusing to Windows users.

Support teams dedicated to Windows users. Linux has a very large support community, and specifically places like www.ubuntuforums.org have teams dedicated to helping new users. Recognizing that the majority of new Linux users come from Windows due to Windows’ market share, and creating teams specifically geared toward Windows’ users unique needs, should help their adjustment to Linux.

Keep it simple – focus on having things just work. Apple may not have captured much of the PC market, but their simple, functional devices have become synonymous with digital audio players. A PC will never be as simple as an iPod, but moving toward simplicity and working without issues is a worthy goal. In many cases getting things to work in Linux is already easier than in Windows…but when they don’t, it is much more difficult. If hardware support as a starting point works without any input from the end user, Linux will greatly benefit.

Linux is a wonderful operating system, and Ubuntu has epitomized its move toward acceptance with new users. The time is right to tackle the Windows market, and with a little help, Linux is poised to make great strides.

Nixie’s Ubuntu Linux – A Travel Guide for Visitors from Windows

  • Al

    You need help. Professional help. Maybe a knife.

  • ROSSI

    son OF BITH . MA KI CHUTH UBUNTU . WHO FOUND OUT TIS , WILL DIE IF HE GETS IN MY HAND . MA KI CHUTH WT LAUDA OS IS THIS . THU SHIT ON U BASTARD LAUDA KE BAL .

  • http://Nope! hipirn

    Am a casual user, recently bought an I mac, used PC’s before that, still have a laptop with windows XP. Don’t know why I put up with windows now that I have Mac. Want to convert my laptop maybe to Linux. Enjoyed your report on conversion, you are a wordsmith with a bit of a glint, I like that, you warmed up this old man’s blood.. Luck to ya. hipirn

    • http://graphox.us/ Aaron

      Mac was built to introduce children into the computer environment

  • michael

    I thought this was about how you hate Linux?

  • tuxtorpedo

    I really like your personality. I appreciate your Linux videos. You are also a good writer, which I must say I find to be rather exceptional, where it comes to the internet. Keep up the good work. Cheers!

  • hein

    you fool me with the title.. haha

  • RW

    I couldnt agree more, Ubuntu used to be good in Rel 8.04, started declining till 10.10.
    The 2 latest versions 11.04 and 11.10 are nearly unusable. Do not use…..

  • boots

    Ubuntu is trying to make our decisions for us like micrsoft does. Linux is not harder, it’s different. it’s a Lego set, not an exact model. Windows can claim it’s easier because they do all the thinking for you- without possibility of anything different. they are so big that hardware vendors and programmers do all the work for them. They develop their device drivers FOR microsoft, release their programs to use the .net framework because so many people use windows, not because it’s better. Microsoft just needs to release a (crappy weak poorly thought out) OS where they don’t have to do anything but focus on patching their zillions of holes (but only as threats are discovered- not productively) and pay for advertising to keep their market share. Linux does just as well and they have to hack devices and reverse engineer the technology to make linux work- but if the user has to type 12 charactors into the console to make something work all bets are off! because users are happy thinking technology is magic. Also Linux developers are doing all that work as a volunteer… for free. Linux is more like a Lego set where you fit the pieces together. this seems harder- because we’re used to being treated like children when it comes to using a computer. being told that we can only do what windows wants to do. Computers are capable of soooooo much more than email, documents, Internet, etc. we’re forgetting that a home user or even a business user needs basically the same thing they’ve needed for 20 years, so developing new tools has spiraled into adding eye candy and a couple of features- windows 98 does pretty much the exact same thing windows 7 does with more useless crap in the way. what if I want to do something outside of the everyday grind? well, linux is exactly what I need. programming it is easier than on windows. Documentation- or actually every aspect of how my OS runs is exposed to me as a developer. I’m not locked into being told how I am expected to use my computer, I can do anything. If a user wants to not think, but rather just wants to accept how things work on their system and as a result have a company demand money for any task they want to do then use windows. If staying ignorant of technology and what it can offer is your goal then use windows. if you are willing to realize that there are options, and your computer can do what you want with a little elbow grease then use linux. One last thought- People get fed up with windows, but when they have to use something different, they want it to act like windows… which is what the don’t want. A computer is not psychic, and people CAN learn something different, and it’s not hard. we’re just not used to thinking about what we really want.

  • Alex

    It’s interesting to note that Linux isn’t for everyone in fact the way it stands right now, that if you want to play games on it make sure you are playing Linux or UNIX only games on it not Windows, WINE is really not that great, not even the non-free branches found in the repositories.

    I am a Linux, UNIX (AT&T and SCO) and BSD programmer and developer.  I know exactly what you are talking about when you say that you can’t figure how in the hell to do something.  When I first started in it years ago it was a challenge to say the least.

    It seems that no matter what GUI the Linux is built around they always seem to eff up the fundamentals, since the majority of us subscribe to the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method.  Everything is still pretty clunky from the old days up until now.

    The other problem is there, the are so many different GUIs, each with different associated calls and return values to drive them forward.  If that isn’t a problem, then you look at all the 4,000+ distributions of Linux which in and of itself makes Linux suck.  We are too busy trying to make the ideal Linux but never quite hit the mark, it’s an obvious mark too.  As, I talk about the 4k+ Linux distribution, I am working on my own, one that looks and works more like the Microsoft Windows 95 GUI with a couple of more functions added to it.

    The one difference in my distribution is that the binaries are free (the OS and the programs that sit on it but the source will be closed only to a certain select few.  That is the prevent people from branching off of my work making things only worse in the Linux community.  I’m also working on a graphics, media and sound library similar as to what DirectX does for the Microsoft Windows.  The whole purpose of this distribution is not to emulate windows or do any of that crap, it’s to be a platform that the game and other applications developers can take seriously.

    Essentially, we in Linux and BSD are suffering from a credibility issue. 
    Too many applications are put on the distributions with weird names and don’t make any sense to the normal user.  By putting applications that are simple, very powerful and easy to use at all levels of expertise is what is needed.

    If we in Linux want to be considered prime time we have to pull it together and stop branching out, come together to make standards and work inwards with the new standards to make a super operating system. 

    As it stands right now, I actually dread the thought of having to write drivers for all the various versions of popular Linux as it changes from distro to distro and of course version to version, don’t forget the make it or break it kernel / scheduler update. 

    As for the media, the best rescue Live CD/DVD I can think of would be Linux Mint 13 (the new long term support) [LTS], the newest LTS of Arch Linux or PCLinuxOS.  The other distributions can confuse the hell out of new users.

    I would lean toward PCLinuxOS or Linux Mint 13 if you need wireless support, they’re pretty good.

    Now, I need to clear something up, Ubuntu.com is not the company, it’s the distribution name created by the company by the name of Canonical Ltd., which can be found here; http://www.canonical.com/

  • Grubblebum

    lol.. this is typical.. Do you even KNOW the difference between linux and BSD? no.. didn’t think so.. Ubuntu sucks.. FOR SURE!, but don’t compare ubuntu’s failures to all distro’s, and don’t foget that BSD is different from linux.

    • Alex

       Actually, I do know the difference, thank you very much.  The best distro for BSD in my humble opinion is one without X-Windows by default, OpenBSD. 

      Ubuntu does have quite a few failures in the past 2 years but it cannot be blamed solely on them however, some of it comes from their codebase that originated in Debian, since Ubuntu is a forked distribution therein. 

      By the way, since BSD has had minimal support for many different platforms, despite they have distributions for all the major processors.  They are going by the wayside right now,
      also many of the Linux utilities that are up to date are being ported to BSD and it also includes some of the desktop environments. To give BSD a shot in the arm and keep them moving.  Let’s put it this way, if you have the exact hardware that they support for BSD, then everything is peachy keen but if you don’t, well, you have to know a programmer working on the correct drivers for your system and accessories.  I don’t do every single driver on a system on certain ones.

      People make the mistake of calling BSD, UNIX when it’s not.  It is UNIX-like but not actually UNIX. 

      Now the most stable of the Linux platforms if you don’t want all the bells and whistles and no hand holding, I would go with Slackware, since they have been around for a very long time and have their head screwed on straight.

      As I have said before, we need to stop forking out and making so many different distributions of Linux and move inward.  We do have as a whole, have a credibility issue with many users.  Things don’t work the way they should although they are getting better.

      I would say the Linux distro that has the most promise and I like it because I don’t have to fiddle with the settings too much to get it to do what I want.  I don’t mind using the terminal to do my work but I have a lot of other crap I have to tend to, such as writing code, etc.  The one I do recommend would be PCLinuxOS, I like Tex’s style and overall system security on that distro.  On the other hand if you want to get into the internals and have a fairly stable Linux system but still have compatibility somewhat with Debian packages, go the the fork of Ubuntu called Gentoo. 

      It all boils down to how much you want to fiddle with the internals and if you want to compile the whole damn operating system or if want a live CD / DVD and go for it that way, to try it out and if you like it, install it.  Years ago when I had a lot more time I would try all of these new distributions out and see if I like it but I now tend to stay away from the newer ones unless they are of the LTS releases.  In other words, I don’t want to waste my time on trivial releases just to get the latest and greatest in thing (OS) but to have instability be the biggest problem.

      I should say something about people who flame others and their posts that it doesn’t make you look more intelligent than someone you flame, it shows quite the opposite.

  • Tim

    What pisses me off is how rude the linux community is. I’m half tempted to install windows on my machine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gene-Simmons/100001379206170 Gene Simmons

    I feel ya!! I spent the last three days jacking around with Mint and Ubuntu and never did get my printer, label printer, blocklist manager and several other necessities to work. Usually ended up in dependency hell. I’ve spent waaaaay too much time screwing around with Linux for the past 10 plus years. Anyone who claims to be as successful with linux as they are with windows is lying to you. ARGH!! I’m done with Linux.

  • keta

    send me your email address , i will send you a little nix package,that makes backtrack look silly , dabber

  • Joshua

    I used Ubuntu linux for years, but finally just switched over to Windows again because, like you said, it JUST F*#$%NG WORKS. I got so tired of spending ten hours a week researching problems on the forums, downloading drivers every time something stopped working (which seemed like every day), using the CLI when I didn’t feel I should have to, and everything breaking with each new distro. The last straw was when I upgraded to 11.? and my touchpad and wireless both stopped working. I was in a dorm so I ONLY had wireless, and there was absolutely no way that I could try to install drivers, or upgrade anything, or even ask on the forums for help. So Windows 7 Ulty went back on and I have never turned back. Sorry Ubuntu, and Linux, and Linux fanboys, but 99% of the people on this planet ONLY know Windows and if you want them to use Linux, you MUST make it as Windows-like, as far as GUI goes, as possible. Period. Or, like Nixie said, walk them through everything as soon as they install and boot up. Seriously, don’t let them use the OS until they click through a guided tour or something. And MAKE THE DAMNED THING JUST WORK!

    • digibyte

      Linux, for right now, works well as servers. However, for use with desktops Linux will need more improvement.

    • Jimmy

      Or maybe, you don’t know how to use a computer. People that use Windows don’t know how to use a computer to the full extent. Sad really

  • Geo

    if you are a technologically minded person you would have loved linux.

    • digibyte

      Not all technologically minded people necessarily will like Linux.

    • Nicolas Edwards

      I’m a computer engineer and can safely say that Ubuntu sucks!

  • Byeong Gon Lee

    I love linux but hate ubuntu it’s so buggy that’s the only and major reason

  • La VloZ

    Linux isn’t for girls :P