The Stomach-Churning Prospect of Installing Linux

It was just the other day the suggestion was made that Linux is best-suited for bachelors. That assertion set off quite a little storm of controversy, as alert readers may recall, bothhere on these virtual pages and elsewhere throughout the blogosphere.

The latest match to be tossed onto this tinderbox of a topic? A post over on LXer provocatively titled, “Anyone can use the Linux operating system.”

Ninety percent of today’s Linux distributions “can be easily used by just about anyone when properly configured and presented with a couple minutes of explanation to the new user,” wrote Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland in his post on the site.

‘Not Everyone Can Install Linux’

It’s those first steps, though, that are critical — and where potential users can be lost as a result of the obstacles they encounter during installation, he suggested.

“Ultimately the best solution for getting Linux into the hands of someone new and having it provide a positive experience is the proper setup and configuration of the operating system by someone that knows what they are doing,” Hoogland concluded. “Just like Windows or OSX, anyone can use Linux in 2011, but not everyone can install Linux.”

The words had barely appeared on the LXer page before the comments began to appear — followed by more, and still more.

‘We Are All Missing the Crucial Issue’

“Linux is a kickass OS, but it doesn’t install, act, work or maintain like Windows,” noted oldgeek, for example. “Dontcha think if everybody knew that; and none of the smart asses who lurk the forums taking out noobs were allowed to respond, that Linux would spread and flourish faster?!

“I do,” oldgeek asserted. “I’d take on the challenge of being a rational voice in all these fora just to keep the noobs out of the jaws of the l33t.”

Then again: “We [are] all missing the crucial issue, which is support,” countered Fettoosh. “A good level of quality free support for Linux doesn’t exist.

“Forums, although there are so many of them, are not good enough,” Fettoosh added. “Having so many of them is a big problem. The way they are organized is a big problem.”

‘It’s a GUI, for Pity’s Sake’

It soon became clear that the topic had struck home with numerous readers. Linux Girl couldn’t resist taking a small sampling of opinions herself down at the Linux blogosphere’s supremely well-air-conditioned Punchy Penguin Saloon.

“It’s true that anyone can use GNU/Linux,” educator and blogger Robert Pogson opined. “It’s a GUI, for pity’s sake.”

Indeed, Pogson has taught first-graders “to point and click a mouse, and they had no problems with it at all,” he recounted. “If OEMs install it properly and retailers put it on store shelves, GNU/Linux will sell just as it did for netbooks before M$ paid OEMs off and just as Android/Linux is selling like hotcakes now.”

‘The Machine Is Running Quieter and Cooler’

Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza had a similar tale to tell.

“I recently put Natty on a Dell Vostro 1500 — one of the old big heavy ones with a really early Core 2 Duo,” he began.

“This is my lady’s machine and it came with Windows XP, which it’s run until it committed digital suicide recently and began blue-screening on every boot,” Espinoza explained. “Amusingly, the machine is actually running quieter and cooler on Linux (with the GNOME 2 ‘classic’ desktop) than with XP and noticeably snappier as well.

“Since she spends almost all her time in Firefox anyway, using Linux has only improved her life,” Espinoza asserted. “Since I fix the majority of computer problems in any case, support is no more arduous for at least one user. Indeed, far less; who wants to fix XP?”

‘The Operating System Is Becoming Irrelevant’

Most people, in fact, “can barely use Windows,” asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “They know how to use their usual applications, but ask them to create a new directory and save a file to it, and they’ll never find it again.”

The majority, in other words, use their computers to perform only a limited set of tasks. Moreover, “if they had learned to do those tasks under linux first, switching to Windows would have been just as hard as switching to linux,” Hudson asserted.

Fortunately, “this problem is solving itself,” she added. “For most casual users, the operating system is becoming irrelevant — they just want to be able to consume content, not produce it, beyond a few emails and uploading a video.”

A few years from now, “any old tablet or smartphone will be their device of choice — even one that runs linux,” she concluded.

‘I Don’t Understand His Complaint’

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack took exception to several of Hoogland’s points.

“The last time I tried to download software off the web, it went straight into the package manager from the browser,” Mack explained.

“I don’t understand his complaint about .sh files in Linux, since that is no harder than an .exe file in windows,” he added. “Tar files can be annoying, but it’s rare for me to find one without a package available for most distros somewhere, and I have to be doing something really technical when I don’t find a proper package.”

The only point Mack agreed with was “obnoxious forum / help channel users,” he told Linux Girl. “But that is by no means restricted to Linux, and there are better forums available.”

‘Welcome to the Pain’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wasn’t so sure.

Linux is usable by anyone only “if you throw security out the window and never update the thing, or learn the make/model/firmware rev of every single piece of hardware, along with Bash conventions and how to navigate the forums,” he asserted. “Refuse to do all that? Welcome to the pain.”

Now that it’s 2011, “why is there no ‘find driver’ button?” hairyfeet asked. “Why is it when every other major OS for the past decade has had a stable hardware ABI for drivers, Linux users get to do the driver death march, or have to look at the six-month treadmill as a ‘break Linux NOW’ cycle?”

‘It’s a Lifestyle’

Chris Travers, however, focused on the bigger picture.

“Linux isn’t just an operating system,” began Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. “It’s a lifestyle — one which I think is fundamentally empowering.”

Adopting Linux, then, does mean a shift in lifestyle.

“To a Windows user, Linux is disorienting not so much because of what is missing but because of the different way one goes about solving problems,” he explained. “Windows relies very heavily on commercial, off the shelf software for solving problems.”

‘This Isn’t the Cheap Choice’

Linux, on the other hand, “tends to rely on more flexible solutions; the software is often harder to learn, but once learned offers increased productivity,” he opined. “Yes, everyone can use Linux. But at present not everyone will.”

Those who do “move away from consumerism, towards greater independence and freedom,” Travers asserted. “It takes some effort, and people won’t put forth the effort unless they have something to gain from it.”

So, “in selling the community, I think we should be selling the lifestyle rather than the software,” Travers suggested. “Linux has a lot to offer. Let’s make sure we are making people aware that this isn’t the cheap choice.”


  • Part of my work is in publishing. I don’t mean desktop publishing. I mean real world, hardback books that cost a lot of money. I don’t use LULU, except for proof copies. Much of my work is niche market material, so you probably haven’t heard of any of it.

    In order for me to consider an OS for my company, I need to be able to use current state of the art publishing software on it, as well as current state of the art graphics and photo manipulation software. There isn’t a program that is the equivalent of InDesign or Photoshop CS5 available for Linux.

    Yeah, I know that I can go on the forums and find some silly geek patch that will allow me to double boot or run a virtual Windows machine in Linux. But the cold, hard fact of the matter is that for someone who is genuinely in business, not a college computer geek or a home hobbyist, a computer is like a very complex appliance. I should be able to turn it on, input data, and produce my product without having to depend on some nose-in-the-air geek to tell me that I need to install Poohbah 4.5 for a version of Linux that I don’t use.

    When you guys get a real OS with real software, you will have the real business world beating a path to your door. As of now, the best thing Linux has is a Solitaire program.

    • You see, it ain’t the install that gets ya, just wait until the 6 month Ubuntu upgrade death march bites your right in the butt. You see I own a little shop selling PCs, and I actually tried selling Linux and what did I find? you get the machine running all nice and stable, be it on Ubuntu/Mint, PCLinuxOS,Mepis, or Mandriva, and it all LOOKS on the surface to be all well and good. But then the upgrades come and WHAM!

      Suddenly your wireless don’t work, sound is borked, video is glitchy (if you are lucky, I had two go Black screen o death) and what do you do? Is there a friendly "Find drivers" button? Some easy GUI way to get everything back? Hell even a "roll back drivers" like has been on Windows since Win2K? OH HELL NO, No it is "welcome to the forum dance" buddy, where your butt BETTER know the EXACT make/model/rev of EVERY piece of hardware you are having a problem with, better be damned comfortable with writing Bash scripts as you WILL have to tweak any "fixes’ you manage to find, because they are written for hardware B rev D and you have hardware h rev k, and then you get to put ALL that into a 70s era term and pray to RMS’ beard that you got everything right, because once mistyped line and you could have seriously broke something!

      And people wonder why I refuse to carry Linux anymore. My time is a MINIMUM of $35 an hour, at that rate it only takes 2.5 hours of the forum dance to equal a copy of Win 7 HP. Right now I am staring at 4 perfectly working PCs that I will end up having to take to the dump, simply because the cost of Windows licenses are more than they are worth, but sadly to put Linux on them I have one of two choices. 1.-Disable ALL updates and make the machines a risk of being bit by the next zero day, or 2.-give away lifetime support as the next upgrade death march WILL break at least one of the drivers.

      So it is off to the dump they go. What is sad is if Linux had what everyone else has, and I DO mean everyone, BSD, Solaris, OSX,Windows, OS/2 and had a stable ABI for drivers frankly these machines wouldn’t be going to the dump, and I’d even have new linux machines on my shelves. but until I can get at LEAST 5 years worth of security and software updates without watching the drivers fall down and go BOOM? Well then I simply can’t have your product on my shelves. I have a rep to protect so I can just say "RTFM noob LOL!" which is pretty much the attitude you get when you point this problem out.

      • what about long term stable?

        I guess I’ve been lucky

        my 1st ubuntu install, made the wireless work for the 1st time ever on a gateway notebook, I did have to chase down the sound driver

        HP hardware, just works

        a HP printer that required the driver be uninstalled & reinstalled on a HP vista notebook, everytime I wanted to print. The same printer just works on any other distro…

        there is a different mind set required

        to find a solution on linux OS’s the 1st place to look is the software center

        have a problem do a general search & include the name of the distro, before focusing on a specific forum

        I can build a nice general email, surfing, picture, music machine that just works, no real fuss for 2 years, no bsod, no virus/malware

        • Is twofold. 1.-You have to get it EXACTLY on the week of release to actually get 5 years. right now you will get less than 2. 2.-LTS is a codeword for "runs old software" because again thanks to Torvalds and his f’ed up design choices often software will ONLY be for kernel X, and of course LTS is on kernel W. This doesn’t even bring into it the fact that often the ONLY software backported is the software that came with the LTS, so if say the latest Flash or Java has a zero day? you are totally hosed my friend, because it requires kernel X and we are back to that dance again!

          Look I’m not some noob here, I’ve been building boxes since before most of the guys here could grow facial hair. Do you think I like paying for licenses? not at all, it eats into my profits and makes it harder to compete because many shops install "Windows Razr1911 Edition pre-activated" which makes me look like I’m gouging. but I HAVE TO HAVE at LEAST a good solid 6 or 7 years out of a PC. I’d say 5 is a bare minimum since the switch to dual cores for most folks PCs are "good enough" and they aren’t switching them out near as often. But until there is a Linux that will either give me a good 7 years with NO upgrades, or at least survive upgrades without killing itself? Then I can’t carry it, the support costs would kill me.

          Try this little trick any who don’t believe me, and see for yourself. Take a spare HDD or make a spare partition. download ANY distro from 5 years ago, your choice. SUSE, Mepis, Ubuntu, take your pick. Now get ALL the drivers up and working, got it? good. Now upgrade it to the latest and see what happens. I will bet my last dollar that at LEAST ONE if not several drivers WILL be horribly broken. And again, no rollback drivers, no previous versions, no GUI based way to fix it, you are just SOL.

          But since I’m a retailer what will happen is they will bring it to me and demand I fix it. I either tell them tough luck and blow my rep and any hope of repeat business, or I take the hit and waste hours doing the forum dance. That is of course if there even IS a fix on the forums, sometimes it can take a week or more, which means I’d have to provide a loaner. Sorry, but that is unacceptable.

          And you haven’t got to the upgrade "fun" yet from the sounds of it friend. trust me its coming and you will NOT be having any kind of "fun". The initial install is NEVER the problem, its the upgrades that bork you.

          • I put in a old HDD with 8.04 installed

            seemed to work fine

            admittedly I’m willing to fool around more than most, I wouldn’t be your prime customer.

            Just like any information you are trying to find on the web, answers are dependent on how you ask the question. It’s critical thinking, in action

            your comments about the community have some truth, The neeks [nerds + geek] do get a little full of themselves.

            I’ve had nearly the same [worse]treatment by MS customer service

            I’m looking for a comprehensive solution, which includes the support community

            Do you really get 7 years out of a windows box?

            XP needs to be rebuilt every year or so, vista every few months, maybe 7 is better…

            with a nearly endless supply of single core pentium machines, with 2ghz or better processors, I won’t be buying anything new for at least a few more years, why would I? Other than replacing a few cheap chinese caps on MOBO’s, the stuff is bulletproof. flash drives are at commodity prices. a powersupply if I had to buy one is $30 big deal…

            if I were into gaming I would buy a dedicated device. the same device will stream video, without any fuss

            Many people are going to mobile devices, which are only going to be good for a couple of years

            who is your prime customer?

          • 1.-Only the clueless actually "rebuild" Windows, the rest of us figured out years ago how to keep that from ever being needed. you see it isn’t Windows but the third party installers that shotgun the registry that cause the "Windows rot" as it is called. Any registry cleaner (there are several good free ones, WinUtilities or CCleaner both work well) set to run weekly? No more Winrot. I have boxes on 8 years in the field now with ONLY hardware upgrades, and they run as nice as the day i installed them.

            2.-You didn’t answer the question though: Did you UPGRADE from 8.04-11? because THAT is what bites you right in the butt, it is the driver borkage from the upgrade process. Windows doesn’t have this problem simply because the support cycles are so dang long people toss the box before it gets EOL. Win2K-10 years, WinXP-14 years, WinVista-8 years, Win 7-11 years. Even if MSFT managed to stick to the three years schedule (which has yet to actually happen) their EOL policy will STILL give you 8 YEARS of support, and that is if the release isn’t delayed (which it always is) in which case you get two years beyond the next release or last SP, whichever comes last.

            3.-As for my customers? SMBs, SOHOs, and home users mostly. Now Linux can give up converting the SMBs as they have to much Win32 software. SOHOs? Three words: Quicken and Quickbooks. you ever try getting those to run stable on linux? it ain’t pretty friend. that leaves home users which are a BIG market and if Linux could fix the upgrade deathmarch would be WIDE open. What do home users do? they go to FB, they watch YouTube, they check their Webmail, they play farmville. there is nothing in that list that couldn’t be done in linux.

            but geeks have to accept they might as well be from Mars compared to home users. To a home user a PC is a "toaster with a screen" where they push the button and it goes. or at least it dang well better go, or I’ll be getting a call. They don’t find PCs interesting, they don’t find learning PC crap fun, they don’t want to go to forums or even learn what kind of hardware they have. they want to push the button and go.

            Linux could do this job, it could do it well, IF and that is a 50 foot tall IF, they accept that home users are NOT geeks. There shall be NO CLI, there shall be NO forum dances, and there shall be NO 6 month upgrade deathmarch. if you want them to upgrade every 6 months? Fine and dandy, then make sure the "90%" hardware, that is Intel GPUs and chips, realtek sound and NIC, AMD chips and IGPs, and Nvidia IGPs and chips "just work" when you upgrade. it is okay to break the weird stuff, sh*t happens and all, but the 90% bog standard stuff that is in dang near every box built in the last 6 years? Better NOT break.

            If the community would do this? They’d have a REAL shot at grabbing share, maybe even reaching double digits. Remember the WinXP EOL countdown is well underway, when it counts down to zero you are looking at hundreds of MILLIONS of PCs with NO support, most of which will end up in the hands of guys like me. The question will be if they’ll end up in the dump like the last bunch I got, where the cost of WinLicenses weren’t worth the hardware? Or will guys like me be putting Linux on them and sitting them in the window. It is up to you community, you have the power to change things. I’m just a humble PC repairman calling it like I see it, that’s all.

          • HF

            I never did upgrade from 8.04, I went from 10.04 to 11.04 recently, no issues, beyond the crappy unity DE

            there’s a huge difference in just the past couple of years. There’s not much that requires CLI

            I’m having fun, so I use my backed up content & start from scratch most of the time

            I’m distro shopping, the 6month release cycle is a bad plan. The lack of documentation is another major problem

            Mint is slick, but the community sucks

            Debian is stable but not user friendly

            Suse has an overbearing corporate sponsor

            I’m on a mandriva fork Mageia


            community based, but it’s too early to tell

            I doubt the situation with xp is quite as black & white as you portray. 100’s of millions potential customers is too large of a market, there will be plenty of different after market solutions

            the days of being dependent on apps like outlook & office are gone

            I suppose most of your customers are businesses?

            qwicken is a biggie, that is windows centric

            are there others?

          • My business is about 30% SMBs and SOHOs and the other 70% home users. That is why I take my role as "voice of the common home user" VERY seriously and am happy to give my opinions each week to Ms Noyes. I truly believe if the bad attitude, the driver breakage, and the 6 month deathmarch could be dealt with Linux could easily explode simply by getting guys like me onboard…your little neighborhood PC shop. We get NO discounts from MSFT, so there is no loyalty there. We are never getting rich in this line of work, we do it because we love computers and most of us have NO problem learning new things.

            But the community simply has to accept that nerds are the teeny tiny minority and the majority? Just good simple honest folks that want to come home after a hard day, fire up their PC, and do some surfing or play some web games. that’s all.

            If you’d like to see what I think Linux will need just look up on this site an article I wrote "What I need to help sell Linux" where I laid out what I think Linux will need to capture a good chunk of the market. And once you have double digits THEN you have power. you can demand open source drivers, businesses will have to take a serious look at porting their software, etc. So check it out, I think I had some good ideas there.

            Sadly the comments showed the typical Linux attitude, with some telling me to "do it myself"…yeah, like I have a Master’s degree in programming. Just gotta love how when you point out something that could be better someone tells you to program it yourself. yeah like that will happen.

          • ahh the fanboy effect

            I’ll poke around later & find the article

            my distro shopping started from the unity DE, which doesn’t support workspaces

            & then there was the like it or lump it attitude of the sponsor mark shuttleworth

            if you want a computing solution that works & are willing to pay, buy apple stuff. Have a problem drop it off at the genius bar

            want to have infinite choices, whatever you can imagine linux [oh by the way you’ll have to spend scads of time]

            somewhere in between windows 😀

            I have a 10.04 machine that my printers & stereo are connected to, I have a couple of years before I have to do anything with it

            I have an experimental box with a couple HDDs [one with XP] & whatever distro I’m trying [mageia at the moment]

            I have a notebook that I use most of the time, which connects to the other 2 boxes remotely, a virtual box for initial testing of distros

            the community is part of it

            but in the end things need to work

            I certainly have had the same horrible how do I get this crap to work experience on windows boxes

            what do you think about the open office; libre office situation?

            Libre Office seems a little less buggy already

          • About Shuttleworth. I had hopes he would be the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of Linux, finally giving us a true "Third way" and opening Linux up to the masses. Instead it has been nothing but bad attitude and "My way or the highway" BS. Everyone I know that were originally on Ubuntu eventually got sick of the deathmarch, the driver borkage, and Unity was just the icing on a very nasty cake that ran the last ones off. Does he think we all have netbooks?

            And if you haven’t tried it yet, i’ll probably get bombed just for suggesting it, you really ought to try Win 7. After all these years MSFT finally "Got it" and made an OS that is easy to use and intuitive like OSX while still making it so old hands like me actually work quicker. The combo of jumplists, contextual search, and breadcrumbs is brilliant, makes it so if I have to go back to an XP machine I fell like I’m stuck on Win98. They have a trial version somewhere on their site.

            And while I think apple is slick, my customers are working folks which Jobs has made clear he doesn’t want as part of his customer base. With Apple there is the mini and then the "OMFG HOW MUCH?" Pro and nothing in between, yet for my customers pretty much all would fall above the mini but below the pro. And buying laptops when you aren’t gonna be mobile is just plain dumb, their life expectancy is gotta be less than half a desktop due to overheating of the chips and board.

            Besides after it came out Intel was bribing OEMs and rigging their compiler I refuse to buy anything Intel related. I switched my shop to 100% AMD a couple of year ago and my customers couldn’t be happier. When I can hand them a fully loaded triple for $450, a fully loaded quad for $525? That does full 1080p, hooks to their new widescreen TVs, and has enough storage space to keep ALL their media? They are happy campers indeed.

            But like I said the big fail is the sword of Damocles that is the EOL of XP. The early duals to current boxes can be switched to Win 7 or Win 8 (man I hope they don’t bork that up, luckily Win 7 is supported until 2020 so I can "pull a Vista" and avoid it if they mess it up) but that still leaves tens of millions of perfectly running late model P4s. While I have seen unscrupulous shops loading them with Tiny7 (which if you haven’t seen it is a pirated version of Win 7 that runs great on a 1GHz with 512Mb of RAM. MSFT should really hire that guy) I run legit. I had hopes that Linux would fill the void, but all I’m seeing is the same old BS, the "Do it yourself" bad attitude, the constant driver breakage, the ignoring what the customers want. I’m sure I’ll get lucky and be able to unload a few as offline office boxes and C&C controllers, but what about the rest? I had to recently send a bunch of working machines to the dump because of lack of Win licenses and sadly that will probably be their fate when WinXP is EOL. I have a rep to maintain and sadly can’t afford to give away lifetime support which is what is required to use Linux ATM.

            But a nice gal here suggested OpenSUSE, maybe you should give it a try. I have downloaded the current and am waiting to see the next release so I can see what happens when the upgrade deathmarch arrives, as I can’t seem to find a three or four year old copy of OpenSUSE on the net. Anyway good luck and read that article if you want to see what it would take to have Linux right beside Windows and OSX, as I thought long and hard and wrote what it would take to get guys like me onboard. Sadly since I wrote that in 09 I haven’t seen a single thing I suggested even talked about, much less implemented. not one. The community seems stagnant to me, just the same tired arguments and accusations of being a shill or an astroturfer if you dare to ask for changes. Sigh.


            when it comes to hardware

            every thing from HP I’ve tried worked

            a few dc5000 sff’s, [mostly mint]

            including a 10 year old 1200 series printer

            plug n play

            this Dv4 notebook, was unusable as a vista machine

            I was told I couldn’t use it like XP, never did figure out what that meant

            I’m sure not going to blow $100 so 7 can lose my files & not share

            I usually trade for my services, just a hobby really

            I tried suse, too much CLI, nice enough community

            Novell sold so who knows what is going to happen there

            Puppy will run on very minimum hardware, no [or very little] CLI, but the set up is still tedious & would probably be driver Hell

            I sure don’t miss fooling around with security & now you’re telling me I should be trusting some registry cleaner

            I thought the way MS handles the registry is the security flaw?

            I hear MS security essentials is good,

            I just haven’t had any linux installs, that made me chase solutions any harder than windows

            But I don’t think linux as a pc OS, will ever be more than a single digit solution

            Ubuntu has all the pieces to be successful & even ways to pay the bills

            the marketing is incoherent

            incomplete documentation

            stuck with a bunch of trollish fanboys

            on the forum

            positive threads about Unity run their course, negative ones are merged into Unity mega thread

            I notice my updates to that thread get turned off from time to time, hoping I’ll shut up I suppose 😀

            the forks like xubuntu, kbuntu, lubuntu edubuntu

            should all be available from the home page

            the prominent download shouldn’t be the latest greatest beta [everything but the lts is a beta]

            MS is too busy playing Alexander Haig [I’m in charge here] to actually do what he set out to, which is win market share

  • Let me tell you a little story…

    About ten or eleven years ago, as a Windows ’98 user, faced with Windows ME, Product Activation and the approach of Windows "Genuine Advantage" — on top of the endless concerns over maintaining adequate security and avoiding BSODs — I decided it would be prudent to start acquainting myself with an alternative.

    I’m not a techie, so… to spare myself the risks of leaving myself digitally marooned by experimenting on my regular system… I bought an old, used computer for ~ $30, on which I would install Debian — this because the clunker and my main system were both somewhat under-powered to run one of the "easy", "newbie-friendly" distros like RedHat, SuSE or Mandrake (I did consider Slackware, but Debian sounded easier to maintain and update).

    It’s an ugly story. Really. Consider yourself warned:

    It was really quite HORRIBLE!

    First.. I had to download the *&^%$#@! Debian installation guide and the manual… and then… and then… I had to actually READ them!.. at least three or four times, I’m sure… — I was reduced to printing out the most relevant sections and reading them at lunch or on the bus. Sure, they eventually mostly made sense to techno-clueless old me… (and yes, it might have cleared up a few things I hadn’t understood about Windows, either… but I’m just a book-dealer, not a techie, and I should NEVER have had to resort to such utterly desperate measures)…

    Even more disturbing… I had to look up specs… you know, for hardware — things like my monitor’s resolution and refresh-rate. Listen: I EVEN had to look INSIDE THE CASE (!) and find out exactly which graphics card I had in there — GOD help me, I STILL have nightmares…

    So then… I had to _download_ and _burn_ an install CD. And then… then I had to learn how to change the boot sequence in the BIOS. Talk about living dangerously! And… the very WORST part of all… I had to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS to install the *&^%$#@! Debian GNU/Linux operating system! AND it was a TEXT BASED INSTALLER! (Honest! Really! Can you believe that? Scare-y, let me tell you!) Fortunately I had the print-outs close at hand to reassure me.

    Well, nothing exploded or burst into flames, or anything else too dramatic… not even strange noises… In fact, the whole process went pretty much EXACTLY as described, and at the end of my TRAVAILS the system actually booted. (I’m ashamed to confess: I actually congratulated myself. Already I was being seduced by the allure of technological competence — and a trustworthy operating system).

    I think I might still have had to set up a regular non-root user account (_more_ following directions). I know I still had to set up the modem (yet _more_ following directions — AND the *&^%$#@! demonic Linux did it DIFFERENT THAN WINDOWS), and, well… you know… stuff… like that… like email… like the screensaver, even. The desktop GUI was actually kind of like Win ’95, except it wasn’t _really_… it just looked like it. If you wanted icons you had to install a program (but they called it a package) for that. But it did have a "Start" button and menus and a task bar, and it all worked. I suppose I must have TINKERED with it for HOURS… mostly picking and adjusting the screensaver _exactly_ the way I wanted (just like when my Win’98 was new).

    Of course, I had to show all my friends — at least the ones who considered themselves at all techie. But it looked enough like Windows that they didn’t really care. They started thinking maybe I must be some kind of techie, too — but they also thought I was maybe just a little weird — or at least too geeky — for _them_… They were still going stick with Windows.

    Not that it mattered… Obviously, this was a _textbook_ case of STOCKHOLM SYNDROME — but I was so far gone, I didn’t even care… Every day or every week, bit by bit I learned a little more about how to use my system — even if sometimes all that really meant was _unlearning_ some Windows-centric notion… It didn’t actually take any more of my time (quite a bit less, actually) than I used to spend with Anti-Virus and defrag-ing and rebooting and stuff.

    Within six months, I’d set up my main box to dual boot, too. I loved it… I became one of those odd people — a Linux advocate. When Knoppix came out I demo-ed it in the shop where I originally bought my computer — their jaws dropped, they asked out loud "Why can’t Windows do that?", and started asking about how they could learn RedHat.

    Unfortunately, the technological cachet started wearing off pretty soon. Within just a couple of years, I started hearing about twelve year olds who were installing SuSE on their own. I realized that all the associated geek cred evaporating like high-test whiskey, when I discovered a local financial services partnership had — without the benefit of an IT staffer — converted all their servers and at least half their desktops (according to individual preference) to Mandrake Linux.

    Someday, I’m afraid, even Windows professionals will be cable to successfully install, maintain and use Linux on a daily basis. On that day, my "geek status" will drop back to "mere mortal". Now THAT’S a "stomach-churning prospect".

  • Well, I guess you could download Linux Mint 11 Katya and read the User Guide.

    How fast have we forgotten you can install (in most cases) Linux side by side with the Microsoft OS? You have a dual boot system.


    Tempe, Arizona

  • I don’t get the problem. I’m a linux noob, but recently installed ubuntu 10.04 on three different machines and was able, the first time, to get all the essential hardware working in less than a few hours of tinkering. I found the forums on ubuntu to be super helpful.

    There’s no way Ubuntu is any less difficult to install or manage than Windows. If you gave any person a computer pre-installed with Ubuntu they’d find it as easy, if not easier, to manage and operate than Windows.

    • All I can say, is from a number of recent posts on the subject that I have read, just wait until Ubuntu says it has an update for you, and that update hoses a bunch of stuff, then the patch for the patch, for the patch, still hasn’t fixed it. There is a definite problem with driver/patch management. Windows has been know to do that too, a few times, but.. Ubuntu tries to correct the issues that most Linux has, which includes no auto-patching of bugs/security. The problem is, they haven’t been recently doing so good at vetting the results, and having it completely break something.. Well, some software will issue a reversion to an earlier patch state (i.e. unpatch to a working version), or in the case of Windows, let you step back to an earlier working state, and Ubuntu seems to be missing that particular trick so far.

      So, yeah, in general I would say its probably "easier" to install, just from experience with others, since you have to install less software "after", for management.. probably pretty close at this point, in some ways marginally better, in others, worse. For installing new things, *hugely* better, in most cases.

      But, Ubuntu, currently, is failing at the one thing it tries to do right, which is keep things patched and working, for some people.

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