Is Ubuntu an Operating System?

Is Ubuntu an operating system? Last week at EuroOSCON, Mark Shuttleworth gave the closing keynote outlining what he believes are the major struggles faced by the open-source/free-software community. During his talk, it became clear that Ubuntu is trying to achieve a radical shift in the software world. Ubuntu isn’t trying to be a platform for mass-market application software: it is trying to be the primary provider of both the operating system and all the application software that a typical user would want to run on his machine. Most Linux distributions are like this, and I think it is a dangerous trend that will stifle innovation and usability, or even worse make the desktop irrelevant.

Mr. Shuttleworth’s initial point was one that few people disagree with: that software installers are bad for users and usability. Indeed, the typical method of installing Windows software (downloading a setup.exe file from a website or running it from a CD) manages the software very poorly. Each vendor must construct its own scheme for where to install, how to update, and most of all how to manage dependencies between pieces of software. Of course, Windows has guidelines about installing to C:\Program Files\Vendor\Application Name, but even Microsoft does not consistantly follow the rules. Everyone recognizes that installers are not good for users, even Microsoft, who in an effort to fix the mess invented the (complicated and poorly-tooled) MSI installer format. Apple uses disk images, application bundles, and relocatable software to avoid the problem. It is good to see a major Linux distribution thinking through the problems that installers present.

Mr. Shuttleworth’s statements, however, go much deeper than the technical deficiencies of Windows installers. He talked about how Ubuntu was leading a paradigm shift away from “users installing software” towards a system where all the software a user needs is provided by the operating system. Ubuntu should provide all the software a users needs or wants in the packages. Does that mean that users should not be installing software directly? According to Mr. Shuttleworth, the way to provide a good user experience is for users’ software should be provided by the central Ubuntu repository and managed through the Ubuntu update system.

Granted, Ubuntu has done a good job of making the Linux desktop usable1. A properly managed centralized software repository can make it a lot easier for users to confidently choose software that is tested and compatible with their system. By releasing an entire set of software that has been tested together, Ubuntu can provide the necessary support to guarantee the suite will work together more seamlessly and provide a better user experience.

Users must be able to make their own software installation decisions.

People use Windows because the software they want uses Windows2. People have an amazing variety of wants. There are those who cannot install Linux because a particular piece of software they need is not available, be it InDesign or a specialized accounting program, or any number of new products that have yet to be conceived.

Free-software fundamentalists and practicalists often loudly disagree whether encouraging proprietary software on Linux is irresponsible or essential. It is either misguided or arrogant, however, to think that all users’ needs can be met by a central software repository, even if all software were open-source and free. Some of the best software available today started out small, was distributed on the internet, and made popular by word of mouth. The impetus of “Download Now” is strong, and promotes healthy competition and diversity. Whether a video player by a startup company or a newly-released version of Firefox that hasn’t yet made it to the central repository, stumbling blocks in the software distribution process caused by this centralization will reduce the ability for small projects to promote new software through viral marketing.

This is not an absolute restriction. Authors could provide the download as a .tar.bz2 archive or even .deb package, but those types of packages require the user to perform complicated actions such as opening a terminal and knowing the magic incantation. Ubuntu cannot prevent users from installing software, but it does intentionally make installation difficult. If Ubuntu achieves mainstream status, an alternative packaging format that allows users an easy way to install software will inevitably emerge (e.g. AutoPackage). Instead of fighting this tendency, Ubuntu should embrace the world of “external” software, and provide a simple and standard way for users to install these packages.

If application developers can’t attract users to the desktop, the only alternative is for new applications to be deployed entirely on the web. Although some people believe that the trend of applications moving onto the web is irreversable, I’m more optimistic. There is value, power, and security in the desktop. But without cooperation, I certainly wouldn’t plan to deploy my next application on Linux.

Allowing users to install their own software does have some consequences. Unfortunately, the discussion of how the software should be packaged and distributed quickly devolves into flamewars over the relative merits of RPMs, dpkg, or <insert technology here>. This is counterproductive, ignoring the fundamental issue: Linux software is typically not a self-contained package that could be placed in a single directory. A collection of files that are variously placed in /usr/bin, /usr/share/man, and perhaps many other locations, making it very difficult to relocate binary software because library dependencies are resolved to a fixed set of paths, and never relative to the binary location.

I do not pretend to have a solution in hand for installing software on Linux. I think that Mac-style application bundles could be made to work, but supporting them would require additional features in the dynamic linker, along with something like mac Launch Services to provide good cross-application integration. In addition, since regular software updates are an essential part of modern system security, it is important to have a good and simple way to update software. If distributing software in relocatable packages is completely impractical for technical or social reasons, the same problem could perhaps be solved by allowing users to easily install packages from non-default software repositories.

The final (and perhaps most pernicious) problem when thinking about redistributable software is the ongoing binary incompatibility between various Linux distributions and between versions of the same Linux distribution. While it is important not to hold back development of new features, it is a problem that every major operating system has had to face, and has faced (more or less) successfully. This is a problem that needs to be faced at all levels of the software stack, from the compiler to final packaging. Perhaps, if Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular continue to disclaim responsibility for ABI changes, software will use managed runtimes or scripting languages out of necessity to isolate itself from the shenanigans of the underlying OS. As it is, creating software that is compatible with multiple Linux distributions in multiple flavors is a nightmare.

This attitude is not unique to Ubuntu. Although this essay is inspired by an Ubuntu keynote, it applies to all the Linux distributions. Ubuntu should not be marked for special criticism, except that I hoped their focus on users and usability would lead to better appreciation of and support for user-installed software. Since Linux vendors are typically in the support business, they can define a set of software that they package and support; they have little financial incentive to do serious work on binary compatibility or software installation.

Free-software zealots may be also to blame: “users have the software source code, they are free to compile and install it themselves!”, mixing a philosophy and a technical decision which are not inherently related. Human nature wants software that works, and this includes software which can be installed and tried without the technical prowess needed to unpack software and run “configure && make && make install” and interpret the resulting console spew to figure out whether it succeeded or not and then figure out that you really needed make 3.80, and your gnome headers are too old, or too new, etc.. The issues of licensing software freely should be divorced from the ability of users to install and use the software.

In the process of creating a usable and supportable Linux, Ubuntu has created a software cathedral with “more than 16,000 pieces of software”3. I do not wish to disparage this effort; this cathedral has produced a usable Linux desktop. But the Linux desktop must also provide a method for users to install software from the bazaar. Unless Linux provides a software installation mechanism, the central Ubuntu software repository will stifle the development of the software it is designed to distribute and protect.

Notes:

  1. # Why did Ubuntu choose the obnoxiously self-gratifying motto “linux for human beings”? Of course it’s for human beings; the question is whether those humans can use it.
  2. # For the purposes of this essay, it’s not important why developers write software for Windows, or whether the application/OS cycle is vicious or virtuous.
  3. # http://www.ubuntu.com/, 2-Oct-2006

Atom Feed for Comments 62 Responses to “Is Ubuntu an Operating System?”

  1. Derek Buranen Says:

    Your notion that .deb files are hard to install is unfair. If you download a .deb with dapper (version 6.06) or later, you just double-click it and gdebi gui pops up and prompts for password so that it can run as sudo and then you graphically hit a button that says “install package”. I’d say this is easier than windows where you download a .exe, launch it and hit next, next, next, next, next, next, next, next, next, next… finish.

  2. Heikki Toivonen Says:

    There is a Linux “packaging system” where each program is totally self contained: http://klik.atekon.de/.

    The wikipedia article on package management lists lots of alternatives: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Package_management_system

  3. Matthew Says:

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood part of your argument, but it’s relatively easy to install packages that are not part of the Ubuntu repository. If someone wants to go to the trouble of setting up an “apt” repository you can add that repository to the available repositories in Synaptic and your 3rd party repository will work no differently than Ubuntu’s. If perhaps you only have a single package to distribute or don’t want to setup a repository, you can produce a “deb” file that is downloadable and then installable with a double click using the nice graphical tool “gDebi”.

  4. Jerome Lacoste Says:

    Most of what Ubuntu achieved comes from the work of Debian, in particular the 16000 packages. In fact Ubuntu is a trimmed down version of Debian. So that contradicts the fact that says Ubuntu wants to provide all software a user may need.

    Then

    “the same problem could perhaps be solved by allowing users to easily install packages from non-default software repositories.”

    I don’t see the problem. It’s already possible for Ubuntu users to easily add other software repositories. So in fact it’s very easy for a software developper to provide a binary for said distribution.

    Example: http://skype.com/download/skype/linux/repositories.html

  5. Markus Dresch Says:

    have you checked out *.run packages? closed source apps/drivers from id software and nvidia use these, and they behave just like windows installers. autopackage looks nice too.

    as for webapps vs. desktop apps: there’s a market for both. while it’s possible now to create spreadsheets and documents on the web, most people wouldn’t use that option for sensitive data. although webapps could also be used in the intranet, wich is a different story. i see a shift in that direction. and webapp technology can well be implemented in desktop apps too.

  6. Gerv Says:

    “or even .deb package, but those types of packages require the user to perform complicated actions such as opening a terminal and knowing the magic incantation.”

    How are .debs different from .msis in this respect?

  7. Frederic Peters Says:

    “perform complicated actions such as opening a terminal and knowing the magic incantation”; this is
    just false. I don’t use Ubuntu but read their mailing lists and there have been plans for graphical
    tools to do this (“install user downloaded .deb package”), simply clicking on them. I even do
    believe it has been implemented for the next release.

    It is also quite easy for users to add new repositories so they get otherwise not-packaged software;
    they do this just fine for softwares that can’t be distributed (things like dvd playing for example)
    and users manage, without touching the command line.

    As for stifling the development of free software, there are no evidence, quite the contrary.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    “This is counterproductive, ignoring the fundamental issue: Linux software is typically not a self-contained package that could be placed in a single directory.”
    GoboLinux can.

  9. pd Says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. Installers are far and away the most user friendly method for installing software and mac does a terrible job at this.

    The lack of installers on linux is commonly described as one of it’s few remaining biggest weaknesses amongst everyone I talk to on an end user level. At least when users see a setup.exe or install.exe file they have some idea what they are using. If I see one more ‘tarball’ on the web I’ll scream.

    Software like firefox and mac simply confuse users even further with their default download location being the desktop. I have seen several end users download an installer file, firefox or mac sends it to the desktop, the installer creates a shortcut on the desktop for easy running of the program, and then you have an installer shortcut and a program shortcut on the desktop. Many people dont have the confidence to remove the installer and end up with a very cluttered desktop that weighs down their system.

    Since downloading software is probably more common than installing from media these days, the overall experience for end users will only be made harder if they have to deal with weird ‘repositories’ like Debuntian and most linux systems use.

    The lack of a common package format and installer is a huge weakness in usability and therefore adoption for linux, not a strength. A lot of hardware issues seem to have been resolved. There is some eye candy for those who need it. Common desktop moves are afoot. But software procurement and management is still a huge weakness.

    Using software inside desktop linux is such a pain in the arse, linux might as well be honest with everyone and make state up front that effectively third-party software is not supported.

    If software doesn’t have the blessing of a distro (or worse still, the whim of a sporadic package maintainer), it is essentially a bitch to use it in a desktop linux machine.

  10. Jonas Says:

    “or even .deb package, but those types of packages require the user to perform complicated actions such as opening a terminal and knowing the magic incantation. Ubuntu cannot prevent users from installing software, but it does intentionally make installation difficult”

    No, on the contrary, they are working on gdebi, a friendly package installer that allows the user to simply doubleclick a .deb on your desktop, and click “Install” in the dialog that opens.

    It’s in the repositories, but it’s not yet installed by default on a new Ubuntu installation. But they are working on it. You can |apt-get install gdebi| if you want to try it.

    “Instead of fighting this tendency, Ubuntu should embrace the world of “external” software, and provide a simple and standard way for users to install these packages.”

    That’s what they are doing :-)

  11. Nick Says:

    Whilst I don’t think it detracts from the current of your essay if you double click on a .deb package in Ubuntu then you’ll be asked if you want to install it thanks to the GUI ‘GDebi’ program. It works rather well actually and gives you all the dpkg love of managed dependancies etc. All you need to know if your admin password. In this case it’s *exactly* like the setup.exe or MSI solution.

    So I suspect their answer would be, use something like the SUSE Build Service [http://build.opensuse.org/] and make a load of debs or RPMs.

    Also, the ‘linux for human beings’ bit? I think that probably has something to do with what Ubuntu means in Bantu – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_%28ideology%29

  12. timeless Says:

    everyone who says that gdebi is equivalent to MSI or .exe clearly hasn’t tried having a normal account on a computer (i.e. not a member of any administrators or equivalent group).

    It’s funny, Linux users claim there’s this great separation between root and normal users, but just about every Linux user knows the root password (or root is disabled) and has sudo access from their user account.

    If you’ve ever been in a real Unix environment where you *don’t* have Administrative (staff, root, Administrators, whatever) privileges, you’d know that normal users want to be install software. MSI and windows setup exes let you do this. I asked a couple of users about gedi and one after trying various debs couldn’t manage to get to a point where it even admitted that it didn’t have that feature, the other just said flat out that it can’t.

  13. InnovaFan Says:

    The way I see it is that the linux open source does not want to become completely main stream for the average user and “user friendly” is a whole subject to tackle on it self. I couldnt really see say the soccer mom that believes that the internet is made up of the aol software program using linux and I would hope the open source and linux community doesnt see that either.
    Yes Linux is a operating system and now it seems that all the linux distros are in the desktop
    format rather than the terminal format.

    Just my thoughts.

  14. kuriharu Says:

    I’m with pd. Installers just work, pure and simple. Nothing frustrates me more than installing software on Linux.

    On both Ubuntu and Debian, I constantly try to install software with apt-get/Synaptic and still can’t do it. Last night I tried to install kubuntu-desktop and was told there were dependencies that would not be met. I thought the whole point of apt-get was to meet and download dependencies. And I could not apt-get install the dependencies — it said they already were the latest on my system!

    By stark contrast, I can’t remember the last time a .msi or .exe wouldn’t install on my system in Windows. It’s happened but it’s been so long since it did it’s irrelevant. I know if I download a program that says “Windows XP” it will install with VIRTUALLY NO TROUBLE AT ALL.

    It’s not just an annoyance that I don’t have this reassurance with Linux, it’s ridiculous. Don’t even get me started with tarballs! There’s no way in hell average users will accept this when Windows software installs successfully over 90% of the time.

  15. Vi Says:

    I usually install/remove/update no less than 10 applications per week on my windows desktop (OO development releases, firefox and thunderbird betas and so on). It always frustrates me greatly if the default directory is not …/Program Files/ and if I have to go to the command line – forget it. To click on “next” a 100 times is much more usable and productive than going to the command line, finding directories, changing them, typing a bunch of symbols and keeping your fingers crossed. For example I had to spend few days to make a C/C++ perspective being able to compile on Eclipse. Things should not be that stupid. Using command line is against all usability/productivity standards! End of discussion.
    Was thinking about Ubuntu on my old PC. I really don’t want to lose my respect for Linux. Are there any good news (installer-vise) with Ubuntu 6.10?

  16. Jeff Rollin Says:

    Umm, excuse me? I don’t mean to be hostile, but I think you’ve got this back-asswards.

    *Microsoft* are the ones who are trying to push *one* piece of software on the user. Windows (from one supplier), IE (which can’t be uninstalled), MS Office (which comes free on most PC’s, and if it doesn’t there’s always MS Works – yes, that’s right, ANOTHER MS office suite/program. I haven’t yet seen major PC vendors preinstalling OO.org, though they may indeed do this.)

    By contrast, all Ubuntu does is provide a default set of options, and in the Debian tradition, also provides alternatives. Yes, you can install Kubuntu or Xubuntu, but you can also install Ubuntu, and then install KDE and/or XFCE, and/or deinstall GNOME.

    I may be in a minority, but I also think Web applications are a bad idea if they are used for mission-critical tasks like office software and databases. I want control of my data, and you’re going to have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

    Timeless – if you run Linux or Unix as a “normal” user (and most do), apps cannot get ahold of the root account without user intervention. OTOH, since Win has so many security holes AND most users use an administrator account, there is nothing stopping spyware from installing itself, or viruses from corrupting the whole system.

    Also, users on corporate desktops (whether using Linux, UNIX, or Windows) should NOT be installing apps willy-nilly. Either administrators can do it for them, or they should have enough confidence in those users who do it to know that those users can be trusted to handle the root account responsibly.

  17. sdeber Says:

    dude, I can not go back to windows just because it does not provide a powerful command line shell by default, so I really disagree with you on the whole “Using command line is against all usability/productivity standards” thing. Besides, if you install software from the official repository, I am sure there will be no problem unless you are tracking distributions under development, which is not what an ordinary user should do. If you install software from 3rd-party repositories, then don’t complain about debian or Ubuntu, complain to the maintainer of the repository.

  18. Ben Harper Says:

    Linux is in a very hard spot. Coders want bleeding edge (and by this I mean perhaps 2 year old technology) to be available, so that they can claim extreme performance such as O(1) asynchronous event polling or some fancy tricks such as FUSE. While such things are nice, you can’t claim that they give anybody even a 5x performance increase or 5x reduction in coding effort, nor a 5x increase in end user ease-of-use. I think it would be far more valuable if a linux vendor decided upon a feature set that they will call Linux XX or whatever, and refuse to release any new kernel features for another 5 years, nor make any additions to the standard C library, the GUI, or any OS library required by 95% of applications.
    That, in the scope of this conversation, is what makes Windows such a success. It’s only a handful of applications that really need kernel features not found in Windows 2000. The problem, it seems, is that linux devs are too often playing catchup to everybody else, especially in the sphere of the GUI, that they are too reluctant to say “this is good enough for the next 5 years”, but I think it is good enough.
    To some degree, this is what OpenBSD has said. They rarely introduce anything new or fancy into the OS, and that makes it very easy to maintain and a sounder investment to learn.

  19. gr Says:

    A project that perhaps Linux distro’s should look at is PC-BSD.

    I’ve installed it and experimented with it. Unfortunately the few freeBSD “distros” that install as easy as Linux, lack in hardware support due to freeBSD in itself. One can argue about the merits of freeBSD vs Linux as a server OS and until recently, as a respectable desktop OS.

    PC-BSD installs as easy as the top Linux distros and offers a pure freeBSD OS with the KDE interface. The ports system is still there (really painfully time intensive to compile then install or use a limited selecttion of packages).
    Where PC-BSD shines is they introduced a *.pbi file. This archived package contains all the libraries, needed files and program info that a user installs in the “own /home directory” with only a few clicks and their password. No dependency problems. You’re asked if you want an icon on the desktop and if you want an icon in your “Programs” directory.

    There is no scatterings of libraries or such since everything needed for the app is statically compiled into the executable that is installed from the *.pbi.

    To remove an app just a few clicks and it’s gone, the Program’s menu entry is deleted and any installed icons are gone.

    It’s incredibly simple and elegant; as easy as the “add / remove software” from the Windows versions but it removes ALL traces of the deleted app.

    The creation of *.pbi apps has been slow but most of the popular apps such as OppenOffice, GIMP, Firefox etc. are available and offer the easiest alternative I’ve seen in the BSD-Linux world for application installation.

    I’m still a solid Mepis / PCLinuxOS / Kanotix fan and occassionaly, yes use XP but to see a project like this is refreshing.

    Once matured and if hardware support is better, I just may think about it as my main OS.

    Here are the links to the project:

    http://www.pc-bsd.com/

    http://www.pc-bsd.com/?p=learnpbi

  20. Steviant Says:

    “I couldn’t disagree more. Installers are far and away the most user friendly method for installing software and mac does a terrible job at this.

    The lack of installers on linux is commonly described as one of it’s few remaining biggest weaknesses amongst everyone I talk to on an end user level. At least when users see a setup.exe or install.exe file they have some idea what they are using. If I see one more ‘tarball’ on the web I’ll scream.”

    Because Windows is just the ultimate in usability, everyone should copy it verbatim?

    Puh leaze…. Windows installers have a tendency to install the application in some nested folder in the start menu that has nothing to do with the name of the program you just installed.

    On my workstation I have submenus called ‘Norton’ and ‘Gigabyte Technology Group’. How the hell am I supposed to know what’s in those folders, or to look there for new applications. Windows handles installations terribly, just because you’re used to it mistreating you that way doesn’t make it good.

    At least when I drag and drop an application bundle somewhere, I know where to go to start the program again.

    “Software like firefox and mac simply confuse users even further with their default download location being the desktop. I have seen several end users download an installer file, firefox or mac sends it to the desktop, the installer creates a shortcut on the desktop for easy running of the program, and then you have an installer shortcut and a program shortcut on the desktop. Many people dont have the confidence to remove the installer and end up with a very cluttered desktop that weighs down their system.”

    Yes, Dumping the files in a directory called C:\Applications and Settings\User\My Documents\Downloads is a really, really intuitive thing to do instead.

    If someone is too stupid to understand the difference between an application icon and something that looks like a disk, I’d question whether they should be doing anything unassisted, let alone installing software on a computer.

    “Since downloading software is probably more common than installing from media these days, the overall experience for end users will only be made harder if they have to deal with weird ‘repositories’ like Debuntian and most linux systems use.”

    A list of software with descriptions of what it does… sounds suspiciously like Download.com or Tucows.com. Maybe they could benefit from some of your “insight”. Prey tell, what is your recommended way for an OS vendor to distribute large lists of software which works with their OS?

    “Using software inside desktop linux is such a pain in the arse, linux might as well be honest with everyone and make state up front that effectively third-party software is not supported.”

    Which software are you talking about? Most software seems to operate in a way analogous to Mac and Windows. Seeing as the distributors create less than 1% of the code that’s in Linux distributions I find the idea that they don’t support third-party software to be very puzzling. Have you ever actually used any other operating system than Windows?

    “If software doesn’t have the blessing of a distro (or worse still, the whim of a sporadic package maintainer), it is essentially a bitch to use it in a desktop linux machine.”

    Bullshit… software vendors are free to make double-clickable installers just like in Windows. Name one technical limitation that prevents that.

  21. Rick James Says:

    To all those who whine that installing software under Linux is too “hard” I ve two words for you. Get Lost. You and those like you were never interested in Linux or the Free Software/Open Source world untill MickeySoft and Apple took actions to bring your Warezing Days to an abrupt end, and you idiots think you’re expecting to be welcomed into our midst? After all the snotty comments you clowns have on Windows and Mac forums about things like the Gimp and other Linux software that was never meant to be used by meth-using losers like yourselves? Get Real. Nobody in the Free Software/Opensource world cares about you parasites. End of story.

  22. Koodle Says:

    I want to respond to sdeber. I hate using the command line, and so do most normal users. If any task requires the command line I feel the programmer has been lazy and intentionally inconvenienced me. Now, he has the right to be a ***** or be lazy, because I didn’t pay him anything, but it still is annoying.
    Linux could NOT gain major desktop market share unless there were distros that all day-to-day tasks can be done without the command line. But many Linux distros are getting easier to use all the time for people who won’t read instructions or anything longer than a short sentence (the typical user) and I think there is hope and that the major distros know what they need to do to get users. Once Helix(free realplayer) starts to legally include the MP3 and WMV support they promised, things will get even better for beginners.

  23. Artem Vakhitov Says:

    As others have pointed out, gdebi program successfully manages installation of a single .deb package. But often this is not enough! There are times when you have to install several packages from one third party repository (e. g. when the app has dependencies) – and this is where things get complicated for a normal user. However, I can’t see why it would be impossible to implement an additional field in .deb format specifying the repository, so that when the user clicks on the package, the repository is automatically added to source.list, and then “apt-get update; apt-get install foo” is run.

    That being said, the regrettable attitudes when distro makers intentionally make installing 3rd party software difficult do exist and are fairly common.

  24. Nick Says:

    So you’re complaining that users who don’t have the rights to install software can’t install new software? I take your point that there should be some slightly more fine grained access control in the ‘can install stuff; can’t break /usr/bin’ end of the spectrum and that it should be easier to add 3rd party repo’s to synaptic/your tool of choice (although it’s very much more easy in edgy than it was in dapper), I still don’t see the essential problem though, not when you can host an apt repository and things like dapper-commercial exist. http://ubuntu.wordpress.com/2006/07/08/introducing-the-dapper-commercial-repository/

  25. Norb Says:

    Just another moron who wants to give the “other side”; oh, and get noticed.

  26. sid1950 Says:

    I’ve been using Linux for nearly 6 years. Started with Slackware, which is rather a steep learning curve, but with the KDE package manager I found it a dream to install/uninstall software. I now also use Kubuntu 6.06, and Suse 10.1. I fact I’ve just installed Suse on my Mum’s computer instead of upgradeing it to WinXp or Vista. That would have entailed an expensive hardware upgrade.

    I found the new Debian package manager in Kubuntu very easy to use once I understood how to change the repositiries. Anything in a .deb package just works, though some done’t automatically deal with depencies well. However that is the fault of the packager not Debian or Ubuntu. I used to have the same with Windows. Install something and it won’t run. After a lot of fiddling discover that it needs a new version of VBasic or some runtime DLL’s. With a well constructed .deb, you can double click it and Zen will deal with it and nearly every time will check for dependecies and download or modify as necessary.

    Suse uses Yast & Zen, and between them you can install anything which comes in an RPM package. If you run KDE you also have it’s package manager. Clicking on an .rpm will open Zen and do the install just like apt. No hassle.

    For a stand alone home desktop or laptop, Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Zubuntu is the best so far. The average user doesn’t know what the applications are, all they know is that one is “the internet”, one is for e-mail and another for writing letters. Whether these are IE, OE & Word, Firefox, Thunderbird & OO, Konqueror, Kmail & KOffice is irrelevant as long as they work.

    In a business environement I have only tried Suse so far, though Red Hat and Mandriva look just as capable. I’ve worked in a number business environments running Windows and the desktop users do not generally have permission to install things, so that isn’t an issue. In an “Enterprise” you should have the IT backup to do that in a safe and uniform manner, so it should not be an issue as to whether MS or Linux is better.

    In the real world, the average home user buys a PC with the OS & application software pre-installed. That is now possible with Linux. Applications they want to install run from games to broadband access. Games seem to be moving faster but as far as I can see are being dealt with well. Broadband access is a problem because most providers as scared of Linux and don’t want to help. I had this with BT recently. However the isntall is much easier than with Windows. I just turned on my ADSL modem, plugged it into my PC with the ethernet cable and it worked with no tweaking. Didn’t ask any stupid questions or try to load new drivers like it did with Windows XP. My laptop running Suse 10.1 happily moves between the 3 WiFi networks I regularly use without any hassle. With Win XP it was always a problem, although I found that the Wireless Network Manager supplied by BT worked much better than the built in XP version for this.

    All in all, I think Linux is now working. Shuttleworth is doing an important job with Ubuntu, and I think his remarks have been missunderstood. I still have to use Windows for a couple of legacy applications (cricket scorers atatistics, and a music notation app) but will have fully migrated to OSS apps by the end of 2006. I will be trying out Wine and other MS “cross-over” tools to be able to keep suing MS for testing. I can do all my webdesign in Linux, but it would be usefull to ckeck that the pages work in IE.

    The next hurdle is not how to install new software, or wich distro is better, but how to get the high street retailers to offer pre-installed Linux as an option.

  27. Gerard Says:

    You seem to have a serious grudge against Ubuntu. I’m a fairly new Ubuntu user, but i don’t see the problems you describe.

    First of all, the name is not obnoxious. It is intended for human beings. Maybe in contrast to “Distro X: nerds only!” ?

    Second, it doesn’t *force* the applications on you. You are more then welcome, even encouraged, to install other software because it doesn’t lock-in the software.

    Third, you can’t hold the Ubuntu team responsible for the fact that not every single package works on their distro.

    Fourth, is this a Linux problem or an Ubuntu problem ? If it applies to others (as it does, according to you) it is not very fair to single out Ubuntu.

  28. pgw Says:

    A key point in this discussion was made by timeless about having a “normal account on a computer”. Yes, I’m root on the box but I don’t run my account as root and I don’t want to install software into system directories. I want to install into my home directory and leave the system directories unaffected. On Windows I can almost always do this. On Mac OS X I can almost always do this. On Linux it almost never works. On Solaris this never works (try installing a pkg when you don’t know the root password).

    A user who DOES NOT KNOW the root password needs to be able to install software via the standard installation tools. The default location should be a directory in the user’s home tree. This should just work without major user intervention. It should modify the .profile to make sure that the paths are set correctly. An example of this is how fink works on OS X (its not complete, but it does work).

    Even though I’m root on my machines I don’t want to install software willy nilly into the system directories. This is Unix-derived after all, the software can be installed anywhere if the package management is done correctly.

    Please think of how to make life easy for a true USER of the system who needs to do something or install something and really doesn’t want to even think about what the word “system” means. Once the user is done with a piece of software, if it is installed into a sub-directory of home, removing it ought to be as simple as dragging that directory to the trash.

  29. My three daughters… » Blog Archive » Apparently, civility is dead (at least in the cult of Linux…) Says:

    […] Recently, I assisted my husband editing a blog post that he believed could cause some controversy.  Since I am not a programmer or developer myself, I certainly am not qualified to comment on the validity of his stance, but I am appalled by some of the comments.  First, let me say that I am happily biased on behalf of my husband – I admit it.  Frankly, that’s part of the way marriage works.  But I don’t always agree with him, or anyone else.  That being said… […]

  30. pbi Says:

    I agree with gr wrt the pbi package format.

    Linux needs pbis.. We have klik… maybe if it were more userfriendly, and integrated into Ubuntu, I’d use it more.

    You know what would be smart? A Package manager that could look at the remote package, analyze what libraries it already had and didn’t need to download, and then download only what was needed. THEN, if new libraries were downloaded, the package manager would hard-link those libraries to there appropriate system directories from the installed directory (/home/programs/ or whatever), so that if another program wants to use them, you can download said program and not need to re-download the libraries. Then, if the user ends up uninstalling the first app, the package manager remembers that certain other apps are still using certain libraries, and thus leaves the hard-link in the system dir (thus the inode of the library persists (that’s how hard-links work)).

    That way, we have the best of both worlds… Linux’s signature non-bloated library/application system and smaller downloads (and incremental updates, etc), combined with windows’ self-contained/self-sufficient application packages (for when the user has none of the necessary libraries). Also, if application provides use libraries common to most Linux distros, then they’ll need less bandwidth.

    Man, they should add that functionality to Smart Package Manager!

  31. Anttix Says:

    Oh! This article is a great piece of rubbish!
    Especially this part: “A collection of files that are variously placed in /usr/bin, /usr/share/man, and perhaps many other locations, making it very difficult to relocate binary software because library dependencies are resolved to a fixed set of paths, and never relative to the binary location.”
    That’s intentional and that’s why Windows software installation is such a mess even at MSI era.
    The notion of a self-contained application in it’s own “relocatable” directory is outdated!
    The software should never be distributed like this. It’s straight back to “good old times of DOS”.
    Why on earth DO you need to relocate the software to other directories in the first place? Why?
    You really shouldn’t, that’s why we have Filesystem Hierarchy Standards in Linux/Unix world.
    And as for “Download Now” I really think it’s fucking fantastic that installing some off-the-net software to Linux requires some knowlege because “normal” users will never recognize the difference and will happily install anything that will fuck up their computer as long as it has some cute flashy crap displayed on it’s homepage.

  32. Chris Says:

    I agree with the author.

    Linux distros should be divided in two: the OS layer and the application layer.

    The repositories should be kept as they are and users can manager their linux box as usual. All applications should be packaged as autopackages so users are not locked to one distro.

    I think Shuttleworth is too focused on source code and the Ubuntu brand to really go that extra step.

    It seems that everyone here pushes gdebi. Compared to autopackage gdebi sucks bigtime. Also,ordinary users can not install debs into their home directory. Autopackage can do that.

    I think that one of the reasons that autopackage is not that successful is that the distros will lose power. Power to decide which apps go into their repository and the way the apps are packaged.

    There will hopefully be a “distro” that will come some day that do things different than Ubuntu.

  33. John Smith Says:

    When someone don’t like some things in some distro, that’s a good reason to start a new distro, based on that one, or some other and show to the users how things can be easier and better. There are plenty of such examples.

  34. Jeff Says:

    From what I can remember is that Ubuntu developers have recommended users not to install .deb packages that were built for debian directly as there are some inconsistencies. Plus this still means that some software vendor must create .deb files specifically for Debian/Ubuntu which is still a pain if you must also make packages for all other linux distros. I personally am waiting until this stuff gets sorted out before I make a complete switch to Linux as I just can’t trust one company to provide me my access to new software.

  35. AvFnx Says:

    well you complain about have software in one spot but that what people like….ummmmmm windows use download.com….apt is download.com but much much more

  36. Duf Says:

    I have to totally disagree with you. I am a newbie when it comes to Linux. I have been with Linux 12 months as of this month. I have had PCLinuxOS on my computer for six of those 12 months. I tried no less than six other distro’s and stoped at PCLInuxOS. There was not one of those distros that I could not put on applications outside of their own respositories. I knew no magic incantation to be able to do this. I just did it. I either looked for a RPM file or a Deb file and let the application the distro used to download the file do the work. I have downloaded openoffice and installed it. Never once have I opened a terminal program to install.

    It is blogs like this that scare Window users away from Linux. I remember when I got my first Windows 3 machine. In less than a day it was back in the computer store because I screwed up. You learn by doing. Everyone learnt windows 1, 2, 3. Did they ever yell when it went to 95, and when XP came out the same thing, people do not like change. Give Linux a go and you get choice, lots of it. In platforms, software, and the way you choose to do what you want. With MS Windows, there is MS Windows way of computing. In Linux you can do it how you want. My computer now is so personalized you would never know PCLInuxOS is the operating system. Try that with Windows. You just cannot do.

  37. Halle Says:

    pgw: “I want to install into my home directory and leave the system directories unaffected. On Windows I can almost always do this.” I personal consider myself very lucky when I work with software that is so well behaved that installing as a user in windows is possible. And even don’t get me started on how many hours I wasted on obscure hacks to get software to _run_ as a non-admin user. In linux I can at least compile it in home, even if I agree that doing that is probably too hard for a normal user.

  38. Petrus Says:

    I feel that I know of a solution, but the problem is that it would require some (slightly) delayed gratification, which users seem to find impossible to tolerate.

    I’ve been working on an idea which was adapted from ports, (but before you all say, “oh, like Gentoo, you mean?”) but which is marginally different from what is the norm for Linux in my experience.

    The difference would be in that (as well as the initial installed base of software, of course) the Makefile itself and any bugfix/other patches necessary would be the only element shipped with the distribution. There would also be no central repository as such at all. Source packages would come directly from upstream, and be patched/compiled locally. The “magic incantation” issue however would also be resolved via the build process being entirely automated. Makefiles themselves (and patches) could be developed, tested, and debugged by the makers of the distribution.

    The next objection to this will undoubtedly be that compilation of some packages from source can literally take days. That’s true…the way you solve that problem is by making sure that these very large multi-part packages (X Windows, KDE, Gnome, Open Office, and so on) actually do come on the initial CD image in binary form. Hence, the build process is only used either for comparitively small applications where the wait time is not excessively long, or for non-standard applications which are not usually included on the initial CD, but which individual users may decide that they want.

    This solves any number of different problems. The security issue of downloading strange binaries to a large degree goes away. The issue of large, bandwidth challenged repositories goes away, because in this scenario there are none. The only thing you could potentially need a “repository” for with this model would be the makefiles themselves, and if the distribution in question is using cvs, one already exists. User-friendly automation of CVS transactions is also entirely possible, believe it or not.

    The issue of flakey, non-robust, mutilation-prone dependency databases can also be significantly reduced, because the build routines of many source packages fail already if their required dependencies are not found. It was only really the possibility of installing a binary package in isolation, without its’ dependencies being placed on the system first, that caused many such issues.

    I don’t advocate compiling from source all the time, but I don’t advocate never doing it either. Install the initial system binary, then create a system which can compile individual apps on an as-needs basis. Although I’m also aware both dpkg and rpm could support this model, (at least to a degree) they also encourage far too many other bad habits. (Chief among those being subpackaging – do not even get me started about how hideously, unspeakably evil I consider that practice to be)

  39. Jilles Says:

    I’ve been a on and off linux user since the good old slackware days. This problem has been obvious to me since day one. I hate package managers with a passion. Their sole purpose is to abstract the mess that is below. The problem with program repositories is that they are a layer of indirection between program provider and program consumer (i.e. me). Layers of indirection have valid purposes (such as restricting freedom in an enterprise setting) but can be a pain when they shield you from what you want to get. Why are so many debian desktop users running on top of unstable (a weird practice considering that security and stability feature high in linux’s advertised qualities)? Because stable almost never addresses end users needs. The whole point of ubuntu is speeding up the process of moving debian unstable stuff out, not solving the problem.

    On windows I can install firefox RC 2 with a few mouse clicks (just did this). It’s my choice to install an unstable cutting edge package and it does not affect the quality of the rest of my system. If I don’t like it I uninstall it and reinstall the previous stable version. If I wanted to, I could even be installing nightly builds like this (done so as well in the past). On linux the only way for me to achieve this simple goal is to bypass the layers of indirection that are in between me and installing firefox RC 2. Just download the tar ball and hope it will work. Just getting the damn thing to launch can be a pain already (never mind integrating with the rest of the system). Enter a world of pain in case of unresolved dependencies.

    I have a five year old XP box which has survived years of me installing, updating and removing alpha and beta quality software on a daily basis. I’m talking way more installation abuse than is likely to happen on a end user machine. It continues to work. Windows makes installing and removing software dead easy. On the other hand with every linux distribution I tried in the past ten years I found myself with a corrupted package repository or unable to install software I wanted to try. This includes recent versions of Ubuntu. Try upgrading the obsolete koffice that comes with most distros to a more recent version (e.g. a beta of the upcoming release). Good luck cleaning up the mess. Good luck rolling back if it fails. The reality of package managers is that it is just ubuntu (or whatever distribution you happen to use) holding your hand guiding you through the mess that is the average linux distribution. If it’s not in the package repository they can’t hold your hand and things get out of hand quickly.

    I measure linux distribution quality in terms of how long it takes until I’m forced to open a terminal and login as root. With 1 hour, Ubuntu is quite good in my opinion even though they managed to hide the terminal icon quite well.

  40. Jim K Says:

    The key statement that the author makes is that there is no easy and uniform way to distribute your software to the end user if the package managers of a distribution do not want or are slow to include your software into their repositories. And he is right. Take the example of Skype that a commenter mentioned. I only see Debian and Fedora on their page. What about the other distros? And what about the security issues of asking a user to add a custom repository into their OS updating system?

    Ok, so Skype is proprietary software, which some people don’t want anyway. Let’s discuss the case of Mono. A high profile open source project. How long has it taken before you could easily install it for your favorite distro? Because of political and commercial(!) interests it has taken a long time for most distros. What if a end user did not care about that and just wanted to use it?

    It is too hard for a sofware developer to support all distributions (and even several versions of each distro) on his own and most Linux users don’t compile software. So right now he is dependent on the distro package managers to distribute his software. Is that freedom?

  41. Ubuntu e Canonical: novità importanti « Ubuntista Says:

    […] Novità importanti in casa Ubuntu: Mark Shuttleworth (impegnato anche a chiedersi e far capire al mondo se Ubuntu sia SOLO un Sistema Operativo, o qualcosa di più) ha iniziato a guidare Ubuntu verso il BUSINESS, per la gioia degli utenti e soprattutto degli amministratori di sistema delle aziende di tutto il mondo. […]

  42. Fozbo Says:

    “He talked about how Ubuntu was leading a paradigm shift away from “users installing software” towards a system where all the software a user needs is provided by the operating system.”

    Communism, communism, communism comrads. The central government provides for the people and workors.
    This sounds totally like a government school or library. It’s really not mainstream America thank goodness.
    I don’t think Linux will ever get away from this as it’s founded on these principals. Stop pretending it’s anything different. The GPL is very liberal requiring people to redistribute in a certain way which creates versioning headaches. Take a look at RMS’ website and you can see how liberal he is.
    I am grateful for RMS and what he’s helped us to do but I’m sticking with more controlled open source licensed products for my main work and gaming.
    Linux will always be for more school library, social welfare, testing and science purposes that require more stronger collaberation.
    It’s a great redundant system.

  43. Matt Zimmerman Says:

    I think I agree with you, Ben. Frequently at work (I’m a biochemist), we have to install drivers for obscure pieces of hardware, and if there are only closed-source kernel drivers for those applications, it’s a nightmare if you decide to upgrade a kernel, OS, etc. There will always be specialized applications, infrequently used applications, binary-only applications, etc., that won’t make into these centralized, monolithic package repositories. I would appreciate it greatly if the open-source community (truth be told, I don’t see how this is an Ubuntu-only issue) would consider that some people need these applications and drivers and would think about the possibility of standarding how these external programs may be installed.

    Oh, and Suz is right, too. Ben has taken a somewhat unpopular opinion and expressed it in a tactful, polite way, and while most of you have responded in kind, a few of you have attacked him personally. That’s no way to make an argument. If somebody came up to you and said “What you believe is wrong, and you’re a moron for believing that,” do you seriously think they’re going to recant and change their mind? It’s ineffective, apart from being incredibly rude.

  44. spacepengu Says:

    Jonas Said October 5th, 2006 at 6:05 am
    “they are working on gdebi, a friendly package installer that allows the user to simply doubleclick a .deb on your desktop, and click “Install” in the dialog that opens.”
    Sure that’s fine for the average Ubuntu user bound to Gnome desktop – but don’t they reinvent the wheel? With a simple konqueror servicemenu (available on kde-look.org) you just need to right click to install a deb, to deinstall it or to view some info about it. Independent of the used distribution as long as it uses the deb format. And kpackage (again KDE desktop) also can be used to install a downloaded deb file with one click – er – two: you need to click on the deb and then on install. And this methods exist since years.

  45. Stephen Wilson Says:

    Your wonderfully-written essay has certainly drawn a lot of comment. I think enough has been said about the .deb installer utility in Ubuntu which does, indeed, make installing software easy. If one finds software in .rpm format or in the form of a source tarball, that’s a different story and your argument holds up well against those challenges.

    Essentially, I agree with Mr. Shuttleworth. He is waging a philosophical war for open-source, free software. It is not that he is totally against proprietary software… Ubuntu’s repositories now contain proprietary software, such as RealPlayer. It is more that he wants more vendors to support their hardware with Linux drivers. All one has to do is read Linux forums to see how much grief people have with video cards and wireless cards to understand the importance of supporting Linux when selling their hardware. I believe that is is also supportive of proprietary software that is ported to Linux. Imagine the day when PhotoShop is available in a Linux version. Suddenly, for the first time, Linux users can go to their nearest bigbox retailer, buy their favourite game or other software, some home, open the box, slip the disk in, install it on their Linux box and sit back to read the user manual. I for one will celebrate that day.

    I have been watching the mysterious undercurrents and trends swirling around Linux for the past two years and I believe that time is rapidly approaching. I agree with you… when that day comes, users should feel comfortable installing their software. But, for Mr. Shuttleworth, the war goes much deeper on a philosophical line.

  46. Pogovor » links for 2006-10-08 Says:

    […] BSBlog » Blog Archive » Is Ubuntu an Operating System? Ben sparks another debate. (tags: ubuntu linux) […]

  47. Canonical Ubuntu. Quo vadis? « 0nkulis Says:

    […] Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. «feedstats […]

  48. Alan Says:

    Petrus:

    The system you are envisioning already exists:

    http://code.dogmap.org/spftools/

    It is not fully mature, but is already becoming quite usable.

    I agree that installing from source often makes the most sense for users. I just wish more authors understood this and invested the necessary effort to release user-friendly source packages.

    Package conventions (which _authors_, not distributions, can choose to adopt) such as /package

    http://cr.yp.to/slashpackage.html

    can go a long way to help ease source installations for everyone, as well as improve cross-distribution compatibility.

    Distributions need to do their part by including a working build toolchain by default. Minimizing subpackaging is also important. By not including, by default, essential parts of a package like header files, distributions save their users kilobytes of disk space at the expense of making source installations excessively difficult.

  49. yi;fi;fyifsxyryifi;yiffyuhgyt7tflf Says:

    another issue is if you don’t have internet. you want to be able to easily install applications, and you need to do so offline. that is a critical reason for using self-installing applications such as those you gat in windows. I have that exact same problem, which is why I find .deb and .package so convenient. I think distro’s should pre install autopackage and by default define .package files as executable. then you would have cross-distro installers with a nice GUI. the GUI in Ubuntu for .deb installers is quite fine, my only problem is that many times the .deb package is incompatible.

  50. Thoughts on Ubuntu and Packaging Systems « A Conservative Techie Says:

    […] A great blog post on Ubuntu and more importantly packaging.  I found this entry from the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter as it is referenced in the current edition (Issue 17).  BTW huge thanks for the all the people who are spending time each week to put this out.  Its great since Ubuntu Traffic got to crazy to keep current and up to date. […]

  51. Robert Accettura’s Fun With Wordage » Blog Archive » Installer Mess Says:

    […] Benjamin Smedberg has an interesting post on Ubuntu and it’s effort to be a provider of not only the OS, but the software around it. I think the ’solution’ Ubuntu choose is really a workaround for a fundamental flaw in Linux. Getting software to run quickly and easily without intimate knowledge of the OS is tough at best. […]

  52. kapil Says:

    i recently used ubuntu after using redhat 9,fedora 3,4,5 redhat enterprise edition,mepis,knoppix and finally windows
    but , the package qualities,software updates and ease of user that it provided ,i never felt before . Total installation and configuration along with upgrading took not more than 30 min. This was more than i expected.
    I will burn 10 cds and distribute them to friends for sure….Hats off to the developers there ,making such cool
    applications available for the community.
    Atleast every student and IT-professional should use this and support UBUNTU

  53. dmw Says:

    The unix file system hierarchy is dead simple, logical. It only takes a few minutes to learn. And for the most part you would not need to anyway. The make install command puts the builds (that you created with make) in the correct directories. Not sure where something is? Use slocate, which, or beagle and you will know where it is in seconds. Your package can’t find a library, then find that library and soft link it to the place where your binary is looking.

    Ubuntu’s software cathedral? That’s Debian damnit! Oh and no solution in hand for installing software on Debian-style OSs without apt. Gee whiz that’s a tough one… oh wait dpkg! Huh, why didn’t I think of that? And if you look you might be surprised to find out that every major distro has tools to do just that, install binary blobs outside of official repos.

    There are many ways to install software without using apt. Certainly apt is the easiest, but there are many ways to avoid being tied to it. I think you even misunderstood the essential point that you built your rant around. Ubuntu is not trying to make it impossible to install software by finding builds online. They are trying to make it so that you don’t have to do that. That is very different, and it’s an admirable goal.

    If you were using linux back when it was all about rpm hell and slack tgz’s you would understand how great Debian and Ubuntu’s goals are towards approaching centralized software repos. They have been working for years to banish the dependency hell that made installing software on linux a pain in the ass. Having a repo with everything in it doesn’t take away you freedom. It gives you freedom. It gives you the choice between quickly grabbing that stable but dated build there or taking the time to get the current but untested version off the project website.

  54. Erik's Stuff Says:

    Installing Software on Linux, the Mac way……

    For quite some time, I’ve felt that installing software on linux is … well.. not without problems.

    There is a very nice blog about this titled “Is Ubuntu an operating system?” I do agree with most of what this blog is saying….

  55. fredinvancouver Says:

    I loaded up Ubuntu last week on my home computer and have had a frustrating time trying to load packages (I have little Linux experience). I find something I want (ex. Limewire) and it turns out to be an .rpm file and it isn’t easy to “convert” or use ‘Smart” (which I can’t even download). I have used Suse at work for a little while and it is much easier. How about all you Linux guys out there forget all the different flovours and give us users a system that is easy to use.

  56. Ben Bucksch Says:

    Been there, done that, both as long-time Linux user of all distros, and as distributor, I completely agree.
    I wish it was so easy as with Mac packages. But with OS-wide update mechanism which custom apps can tap into. (But that means that the Firefox AutoUpdate must be removed in that pacakge, with all license implications.)

  57. Stefan Berka Says:

    Ubuntu is one of my favoured linux distribution. It is an amazing project startet by an single (rich) person. It is much more userfriendly than other distros.

  58. m1scha_m Says:

    I have been testing Firefox nightlies since mozilla0.8x. Always on a Windows machine.

    I have just installed Ubuntu on one of my machines, and attempted to download the current nightly for linux.

    Do you think I can install it? Of course not. It involves at least 10 steps. What ‘everyday’ computer user in their right mind wants to use an operating system that requires them to conduct an intensive conversation with their computer, just to install a simple program?

    Until linux comes up[ with a single/double click method of installing a program, it will never be accepted by the mainstream computer user. Anyone who disagrees can only be classified as a one-eyed enthusiast.

    If that is their attitude, it can only mean they consider linux to be meant for enthusiasts only.

  59. Ben Says:

    I think Rick James, reflects the attitude of a lot of the Linux based OS users and creators. They piss and moan about Microsoft is big and bad and that Linux should be the big OS in charge, then if you tell them their software is only usable by a computer science major they cuss you out. Computers were designed to help people complete tasks faster, not to give anal retentive know nothings something to do that makes them feel important and in control.

    I suppose that knowing the back side of the Linux kernel might make a person feel important. But really, who gives a crap?

    I recently installed Ubuntu, and have had nothing but problems getting the video driver to work. I am grateful that a nice person on Ubuntu’s website was nice enough to help me. However, I shouldn’t need help! I should be able to put a disc in, or download my driver, and double click and have it fixed. That is how easy windows is. I develop software in .NET, so I thought I would download mono and monodevelop to check it out. I can’t even get it to install. It just keeps telling me I don’t have permission, and frankly, I thought command line commands went away with DOS. What a waste of time.

    I suppose that if you are the type of person that likes things to be more difficult than they need to be, then a Linux flavor is good for you. However, if you want an OS that allows you to work fast and make changes quickly, then, for now, Windows is the way to go, even with all of its flaws.

  60. peter_b Says:

    “I thought command line commands went away with DOS. What a waste of time.”

    Command line is coming back at windows 2008 server , ironically.

  61. Ben Says:

    “…and frankly, I thought command line commands went away with DOS. What a waste of time.

    I suppose that if you are the type of person that likes things to be more difficult than they need to be, then a Linux flavor is good for you. However, if you want an OS that allows you to work fast and make changes quickly, then, for now, Windows is the way to go, even with all of its flaws.”

    The command line is very powerful – and much more efficient than a GUI. Even when I use Windows, I use the Command Prompt all the time.
    The Linux command line “allows you to work fast and make changes quickly”. Better than getting repetitive strain injury from the painful way Windows does things. Windows makes “things to be more difficult than they need to be” – Ubuntu can be the simplest Operating System in the world to use, if you want it to be. And when you need absolute control, it’s there too.

  62. john rasno Says:

    From what I can remember is that Ubuntu developers have recommended users not to install .deb packages that were built for debian directly as there are some inconsistencies. Plus this still means that some software vendor must create .deb files specifically for Debian/Ubuntu which is still a pain if you must also make packages for all other linux distros. I personally am waiting until this stuff gets sorted out before I make a complete switch to Linux as I just can’t trust one company to provide me my access to new software.

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