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Operating Systems Software Linux

Living Free With Linux, Round 2 936

Posted by timothy
from the once-you-go-apt dept.
bsk_cw writes "About a month ago, in Living free with Linux: 2 weeks without Windows, Preston Gralla wrote about what life was like for a long-time Windows user trying to live with Linux. His main problems came when he tried to install or update software. Loads of people responded with advice — so he went back and tried again. Here's what he learned, and what did and didn't work for him."
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Living Free With Linux, Round 2

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  • Re:Lol (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @12:57PM (#27136745)

    You know what's really funny? People used to balk at package managers, yet now everybody is scrambling to use these "App Stores" that are weak versions of the exact same thing. I could have told you that the Apple App Store would be easy to use because the jailbroken installers were easy to use. And I could have told you those would be easy to use because they're based on apt.

    As a Linux user for 12 years, I would like to congratulate the rest of the computer world on discovering the convenience of package management systems. Just one suggestion though. You can't put all software in a package management system, so please don't go giving up the ability to install software in other ways. You'll regret it someday if you do.

  • by Intellectual Camel (1230692) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:07PM (#27136885)
    "I recommend updating only software that you recognize" say what?! you do this on windows too?
  • Re:The bitter irony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:34PM (#27137345)

    I was quite surprised that he singled-out installation as being difficult. Like you, I consider this to be one of the selling points of Linux: package management makes installation centralized and streamlined.

    I offer an anecdote to counter the author's experiences (yes, I know anecdotes are not worth much, but TFA is essentially just an anecdote, too...): A friend of mine recently got fed up with Windows XP and switched to Ubuntu (with no prompting from me, other than mentioning "I use Ubuntu" when he asked what anti-virus software I use). He was a total newbie to Linux. After about a week I asked him about his impressions. Overall he said it was working great, and he specifically singled-out installation as one area that was really awesome. He said that he loved being able to install things without searching all over the net.

    Moreover, he said that he liked being able to install things from the repos and trust that the software would not fuck up his system. His Windows machine had gotten messed-up more than once because of all the applications he had installed (some were conflicting; others were decidedly dodgy). And so he had learned to agonize before installing anything on Windows, always worrying that this app would mess up his system. (In the end he got hit with malware somehow despite his newfound caution.) He emphasized that with Ubuntu he didn't have to agonize anymore: installing (and uninstalling!) things was now easy and worry-free.

    All this to say that some newbies catch on to the "Linux way" of installing, and love it. Others (like the author of TFA) find it harder to adjust. It would certainly be nice to have some rough numbers regarding how many new users find installing easy vs. hard. This would help inform the next round of changes to the package managers in Linux.

  • Firefox (Score:2, Interesting)

    by djnforce9 (1481137) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:38PM (#27137413)
    I remember having the same problem as this guy did with installing openoffice 3.0 only it was with Firefox 3.0 (back when RC2). For some insane reason, somebody thought it was a good idea to bundle Ubuntu with a Firefox 3.0 beta 3 (remember I'm talking about the time before the final version was released). This version had a very crippling bug with printing ("print selected text" did NOT work at all) so I had to manually try and update v3.0 to RC2 which like openoffice v3, was not in any repository or the "Add/Remove" area. What I ended up doing is downloading a tar.gz which contained it (no installer needed) and overwrite the beta version (but even that was tough because you can't touch the /usr/bin areas without the terminal since you need to execute "sudo" first (although now I wouldn't have this problem because I would just install Krusader which gives me a nice interface to work with similar to Window's total commander).
  • Yes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:43PM (#27137497)

    Now, he's not a troll and he's not an idiot. Which means that he has just helpfully identified something we should work on.

    His basic problem is that he is used to Windows, where things are done differently. Either Microsoft Office is installed or it isn't; and the only pieces of Office that you can see are large chunks like Word, Excel, etc. It was surprising and alarming to him when there were hundreds and hundreds of little packages with odd names. For example, the updater told him it would update "anachron -- cron-like program that doesn't go by time" and he didn't know what to make of that.

    Finally, a Linux evangelist who gets it!

    I surprised that everyone seems surprised that installation is the one big thing that annoyed him. When I made the switch to Linux it was EXACTLY the thing that annoyed me. What the hell were all these little updates? Why doesn't OOffice 3.0 show up even though it's been out for a while? There's no indication or feedback on what updates are necessary or important.

    We really are used to programs being just "things." Large entities. Not a frontend to a complicated backend of libraries, packages or whatever that we have to muck around with.

    And, like him, I still don't know how to get OOffice 3.0 installed.

  • Re:Lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:47PM (#27137573)
    I would agree with that, then. Actually, I found the comment "...even for command-line veterans like myself" kinda funny, too. I don't consider *myself* a command-line veteran (I'm very comfortable with it, but "veteran," to me, implies about 10 years of using it ... I've only used Linux for about 6 or 7 so I can't quite claim veteran status =P) but I found apt to be pretty easy.
  • Re:Lol (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:55PM (#27137725) Homepage

    Just one suggestion though. You can't put all software in a package management system, so please don't go giving up the ability to install software in other ways. You'll regret it someday if you do.

    Not one repository, but I don't see why you couldn't have one package management system. Having to deal with the kazillions of different auto-updaters on windows is quite frankly annoying, I wish they'd just register with some apt-get like utility for updates. I've got several repos where I'm only pulling a single applicatino like WINE, and payware could be exactly the same with a little license key management on top. Except they'd probably roll it into some sort of horrible DRM nightmare instead of a convienient update center.

  • Re:One size fits all (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:01PM (#27137853)

    Exactly, thank you for the post. My family members tend to fall in this category, too, even my siblings (I'm still pretty young, so my siblings are young and "tech savy," all of them know what partitions are, what Linux is, etc). My wife recently said something that I thought was rather insightful: "I don't like Linux. It doesn't do what I expect it to." I'm sure the rebuttal would be "Well thats' because she's so used to Windows!" Well, you're right, so how are we going to make Linux usable for that market share, which is about 85% or whatever it is?

    Ubuntu does a pretty good job, and she uses it to play music and stuff. She would NOT have been able to install it and get it working. I didn't know about the DVD encryption stuff, and it took me a while to get that working. Even after installing libdvdcss it still didn't work. Even after installing VLC it didn't work. I finally installd MPlayer, on a whim, which apparently installed libdvdcss correctly or something, I don't know.. it started working. Point is, it took me about an hour to be able to play a DVD. It takes her about 30 seconds - she puts it in and Vista plays it.

    The list could go on. Amarok/rhythmbox/banshee/etc aren't really as good as iTunes at music library stuff (though the Magnatune combination is pretty nice and we use that a lot). Flash, for whatever reason, is rather slow in Firefox on my laptop (it's a Dell E1505 by the way, with Ubuntu 8.10 ... previously had openSuSE 11.1, which I didn't like as much as 10.3 so figured I'd try Linux Mint, Mandriva, or Ubuntu...). It requires a password every time I connect to our home wireless network because the WEP key (it's just to keep neighbors off, I know WEP is crackable in less than 15 seconds...) is stored in the password manager which requires a password to access, etc (people complain about UAC, I don't think even it does that...).

    Mark me troll or flamebait if you wish (before you do, I'd like to mention that I have an entire CD case dedicated to Linux installs that I try on various (new and old) computers I put [back] together, including TinyME, PuppyLinux (or MacPup), gOS, Xubuntu, Ubuntu, openSuSE 10.3/11.1, Mandriva One, Linux Mint...), but there's a lot that is NOT user friendly in Linux, and simply expecting them to spend extra time learning how to use it is a bi enough expectation - expecting them to learn something like a command line simply to use it not acceptable, IMO, and forcing them to spend a lot of time looking for free or open source alternatives to software and then trying to get them to work, etc ... eh. Admittedly, it's easy to install stuff that's in the default repositories, but who wants to install 100 Star Gazing Exercises for XWindows? ;) openOffice helps tremendously, but it still has a ways to go, IMO.

  • Re:I did RTFA... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jdgeorge (18767) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:05PM (#27137929)

    Generally, I agree with the parent, but as a long time Linux user (Slackware, Debian, Ubuntu) and arguably a computer expert, I have (or WANT to have) a mental model of computers that essentially matches this description of Windows users.

    Sure I can figure out how to get things working that don't, how to make the system start up faster, how to fix the problems I encounter, how to configure my firewall, etc. However, I don't WANT to do any of those things.

    For example, the mental model I would like to have is that I'm going to write music, NOT that I'm going to use the computer to write music.

    Much of my time, I'm not interested in the computer at all. I just want to do something that's also relevant outside the context of computers. Interacting with "the computer" in order to accomplish my task is a distraction.

    Now, I think Ubuntu (for example) does a pretty good job of minimizing the distractions from the end goal. But I thoroughly agree with the parent that there are still some good opportunities to improve the way the computer gets me into the context of pursuing my ultimate task-related goal.

  • Why the GUI? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craig@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:05PM (#27137937)

    Actually, it's more complicated than merely attracting "clueless" users: what about people like me who are anything but clueless but who have incredibly poor memories for certain things? It's a well understood fact that one of the values - if not THE value - of GUIs is the dramatic reduction in memorization and rote learning required to use such a system versus a CLI. I've been-there-done-that with CLIs, but for less than constant use I'm now forced to use cheat sheets and reference books, and that's a time-wasting pain.

    I first used Linux back in 1991/92 in a job capacity, so I was an early adopter. However, I have neurological issues that result in a very unreliable memory; as a result I've been obsessed my entire adult life with retaining "reference" materials. I also suspect that poor memory caused me to develop a compensatory advanced reasoning IQ: I am often able to reason things out on-the-fly when others are dependent upon memory and rote learning. Consequently I've also been obsessed with understanding how things tick, because the better I understand the system the better I can handle unexpected situations and reconstruct things I've forgotten.

    This is the primary reason why a Linux distro with a GUI and menu-item equivalents for CLI commands is important. GUIs are all about reducing the rote learning requirement. Why is rote learning so tightly bound to our perception of elite-ness? I suck at rote learning, but I can reason my way out of a black box when others dependent on memory will remain stuck inside. I shouldn't be penalized for that by my operating system.

    Gimme my GUI!

  • Re:Lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moose_hp (179683) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:54PM (#27138757) Homepage

    Works on mine as well, but thats because every time I format a machine with windows, or start using a windows account, I do something like:

    copy con ls.bat
    %echo off
    dir /w %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9
    ^Z

    on a directory on the PATH, Cygwin is awesome for having a windows native X server + SSH + Xnest.

  • Re:Lol (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frenchbedroom (936100) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:12PM (#27139089)

    You jest, but actually there's a good idea in your post. How about :

    alias please="sudo apt-get"

    $ please install tuxracer

  • Re:Lol (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:12PM (#27139091) Homepage

    Here's my take:

    Linux to me is like a great fishing spot. There are few people hanging around. All of them fairly experienced. No one asks, "What's a lure?"

    Having millions of clueless newbies flocking to Linux is like building an interstate highway next to my fishing spot. Sure, it makes it easier to get to my fishing spot, but then it's not quite the same.

    Of course, it's not a perfect analogy. In the Linux world there can be thousands of fishing spots. Some of them can have interstates and access ramps right along side of them. Some can only be accessed via a mile long spelunk and a hike.

    There's room for both. But I think it's misguided to invite users just for the sake of market share. Market share is irrelevant to Linux. Or at least it is to me.

  • Re:Lol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:41PM (#27143623) Homepage
    You're saying that if you have a day to cut down a tree, you'd spend the first 7 hours sharpening your axe.

    An executive, a lawyer, or other high-powered business type would find it more expedient to simply tell his secretary to hire a guy with a chainsaw who'll have the job done in half an hour.
  • Re:Lol (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gotenosente (1496667) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @09:06PM (#27143931)
    To quote Abe Lincoln: "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe"

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

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