So you want to try switching to Ubuntu?

*headdesk* Over the years there have been no shortage of articles where people try switching to Ubuntu (or other distro) for some period of time, to see if they can use it as a replacement for Windows.  Some are happy with the results, but many have a hard time with the move.  One thing I’ve noticed, as have many commentators on each article, is that many of the problems are due to faulty perceptions or assumptions, not faulty software.

So if you or anybody else is thinking about giving Ubuntu a try, please keep the following things in mind:

1) You probably didn’t install Windows

Whatever hardware you chose to run your experiment on most likely came with Windows on it.  But it didn’t just come with Windows, it came with drivers direct from the device manufacturers for that specific version of Windows, and codec libraries and licenses purchased for you (did you know it costs money to *play* an MP3?) by the OEM, and 3rd party software like Adobe’s Flash purchased and pre-installed (you can’t re-distribute Flash for free).  In short, it came with something quite different from the Windows you can buy in a store.  If you buy Ubuntu pre-installed, you get those things too, but they aren’t on the CD.  Thankfully most modern distros make it trivially easy to install these, even for free, but keep in mind that for them to be pre-installed means you would have had to pay for it.

2) You’re not just switching OS, you’re switching ecosystems

You don’t just use Windows, you’re using an entire ecosystem of software (and sometimes hardware) that is built on top of Windows.  You’re not using Quicken, you’re using “Quicken for Windows”.  So don’t be surprised when “Quicken for Windows” doesn’t work without Windows.  If you use Open Source apps like Firefox or LibreOffice, most of them were smart enough to put a layer of separation between their app and Windows, which makes it easier for them to run without it.  But for decades now, Microsoft has been convincing developers to lock their code into depending on Windows, and if you depend on those apps then Microsoft has you locked in too.  If you want to break free and be able to switch to a different OS, you need to start thinking about the portability of your choice in applications.

3) The Anthropic principle

By definition, everything you currently do in Windows works in Windows, otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to do it.  That doesn’t mean that Windows does everything you might want it to do.  In fact, if you really paid attention, you’d be aware of all of the things you wanted to do in Windows but couldn’t.  So the setup you have now isn’t necessarily the setup you want, it’s just the one you settled for.  Since you’re trying a switch to a different platform, now is the perfect time to question whether or not it’s really what you want, or if you can do something better.  Don’t get stuck trying to re-create a solution you  used in Windows to a problem that doesn’t actually exist on Linux.   You have a whole world of new possibilities in front of you now, take advantage of that and question your old habits.

4) Look before you install

Despite all the pre-installed apps (good or bad) mentioned in consideration #1, Windows users still have a habit of approaching a new installation with the desire to install more stuff.  Mostly this is due to Window’s lack of pretty basic and popular applications.  Linux distros are different, and most will come with a very large selection of useful apps already installed.  So before you go off looking for an installer for Office, AIM or WinZip, look at what you already have because there’s a good chance something’s already there (LibreOffice, Empathy, File Roller).

5) Google isn’t an app store

Step away from the browser. If, after following consideration #4, you didn’t find what you needed, you should not go running off to Google.  Yes, yes, I know that’s how you do it in Windows, you search for “Cool App” and install whatever you find on “” because it was the top result.  That’s why you have viruses.  In the Linux ecosystems, we do things a little (ok a lot) smarter.  Instead of each user scouring the internet for themself, distros do that for you.  All you need to do is open the package manager or software store (e.g. Ubuntu Software Center) and tell it what you’re looking for.  It will show you what is available for your OS, and let you download and install it right from there.  It will even keep it updated with bug and security fixes automatically.  Some, like Ubuntu, even provide comments and ratings by other users.  Best of all, each download is specially signed to give you the peace of mind that nobody has secretly injected a virus into it.


Did I forget any?  I’m sure I did.  Add your own considerations to the comments below!

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42 Responses to So you want to try switching to Ubuntu?

  1. bluebomber says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this piece. Sometimes we face great difficulty in convincing someone else even to try something new, and you’ve managed to distill all my frustrations and feelings here into these points.

    Thanks, and keep writing!

  2. Bilal Akhtar says:

    Great writeup! Would be really beneficial for new users. Keep it up :)

  3. Brian Hall says:

    For the most part I agree with everything you wrote, but here are 2 points to consider:

    1) Most people aren’t willing to invest a ton of time learning a whole new OS (or “Ecosystem”, if you prefer) just to overcome some nagging problems with Windows. They’re Realtors, or Bakers, or whatever, and have a real job to do. Though you might be right, telling people they need to invest some time re-learning how to do everything just so they can send an email message (or other basic functionality) is going to set a high hurdle. They’ve got to get something done quickly and easily, so they can get back to what their job really involves.

    2) The idea that an App-Store is a better solution is very one-sided. Yes, you can ensure better quality software on the whole. But much like we’ve seen with the Apple App Store, getting approval can be difficult and slow, assuming you get approved at all. I think it also stifles innovation or adaption of new software by adding this extra step. If I had to guess, I’d say over 1/2 of my current apps installed came from smaller or open-source development companies (lacking the resources of Microsoft or Adobe) that might not have received approval. It also sets up the potential for anti-competitive practices (such as when Apple blocked Skype calls over WiFi so users couldn’t avoid burning up their AT&T anytime minutes), where a single repository can boost or squash a software on a whim. So while there are many good sides to an App-Store, let’s not forget that it also has its drawbacks.

    • Michael Hall says:

      1) Yes, that’s a huge hurdle that people face when switching away from Windows. My point was that, when evaluating Linux, people need to be aware of the fact that this hurdle exists, and that it exists not because of a shortcoming in Linux, but because of the nature of Windows apps. Too many people think they can just replace Windows but keep Windows apps and Windows protocols and Windows services.

      2) Unlike Apple, Android and Microsoft, most Linux distros let you add multiple sources. For example, I get Google’s Hangout plugin from Google’s archive, and DropBox’s client from their archive, all of which still go through the Ubuntu Software Center for installation and updates.

      • Simon Davy says:

        Just a quick point – Android explicitly lets you install from multiple sources. It’s disabled by default (and maybe some carriers remove the option), but there’s the Amazon app store, plus a a bunch of others.

        It’s no where near as flexiable as archives/ppa’s, but it is doable :)

    • Matt says:

      Even if a program doesn’t make it into the official repos (and the official repos for major Linux distributions is usually ENORMOUS) there is often a mechanism for installing outside software. Ubuntu lets you use personal package assistants and Arch Linux lets you add repositories, for example. They both work in roughly the same way; they add packages to the list you can download from your package manager which will then update the same way.

      You also have to remember that Apple’s bastardized commercial version of OPENSTEP is a lot different than FOSS Linux. Linux encourages people to write and modify software and to do things your way. Apple wants you to do things one way, and that’s theirs. There is no way getting an program included in a Linux package manager is anywhere near as hard as getting something approved for Apple’s app store.

      Just my two cents, coming from someone who very rarely ever has to use outside repositories.

    • jim says:

      “”””””””1) Most people aren’t willing to invest a ton of time learning a whole new OS (or “Ecosystem”, if you prefer) just to overcome some nagging problems with Windows. They’re Realtors, or Bakers, or whatever, and have a real job to do. Though you might be right, telling people they need to invest some time re-learning how to do everything just so they can send an email message (or other basic functionality) is going to set a high hurdle. They’ve got to get something done quickly and easily, so they can get back to what their job really involves.”””””””””””””
      Everyone has a life, that is one of the most derogatory and insulting statements people make. I don’t have the patience to learn how to use or do something, so I’ll just insult people who do, as form of deflection; because making myself feel good is whats important.
      Finding and installing programs on Ubuntu is allot easier then endless web hunting on Windows. “”App stores Just work — (program repositories )””

      • Brian Hall says:

        Jim – First, I never said anything about people “having a life”, or anything else derogatory, so let’s not put words in my mouth, m’kay? What I said (and it remains a valid criticism) is that not everyone enjoys or is able to spend the time required to adapt to a whole new way of working. Not everyone is full-time employed in the IT department, remember? This applies to many things, not just computers or operating systems either; It’s just reality. I’d love to learn conversational German, but I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. If you can only take that as insulting, then there’s nothing I can do or say to help you. And finally, your “app stores just work” comment shows your closed minded attitude to opinions contrary to your own, and bizarre absolutism to a single solution in a world of variation. Brilliant.

        Mike & Matt – good points about using multiple repositories, that’s something I didn’t take into account, and certainly alleviates some of the headaches for developers.

        • Seth says:

          A steep learning curve can be an inhibiting factor, but IME the perception on non-linux users is that the learning curve for linux is steeper than it really is. For example, if you can use Outlook, you can use Thunderbird. If you can use MS Office, you can use LibreOffice. It’s a far stretch from becoming conversationally proficient in a foreign language.

          As an example of how easy the transition can be, the city of Munich transitioned from Windows to Linux and found that their help desk requests from users went from 0.05 complaints per computer a month, all the way down to 0.005 complaints per computer a month. Source: Granted, in this case there was an IT department selecting packages and maintaining the systems for the users, but really, if an Android of iPhone device doesn’t scramble your mind, most Linux desktop distros are just as easy, if not more so.

          • Brian Hall says:

            True, but then you’re talking about application, and not OS. Users can run Thunderbird on a Windows platform as well, so what’s the gain? But your point is well made, that the bigger problem might be the perception of the learning curve rather than any actual difficulty.

            Maybe the Linux community should try a different tactic: Rather than saying that it’s a whole new system to get used to, focus on the benefits only. The iPhone was a TOTALLY different experience when it was first unveiled, but people flocked to it anyway. The difference was, here was a device/software that could do things other devices couldn’t (and did them well). You didn’t hear a peep about the learning curve, and people just accepted it that as a reality to get their hands on the goods.

          • Michael Hall says:

            Yeah, but the iPhone was replacing Blackberry and Windows CE, both of which not only sucked as OSes, but lacked any kind of meaningful software ecosystem and ran on hardware that the iPhone made laughable.

            When the first generation netbooks came out, they were too under-powered to be considered PCs, and Linux was thriving on them. People didn’t think anything of the fact that they didn’t have the customary PC desktop experience, because people didn’t think of them as PCs. But then they started becoming as powerful as one-generation-old laptops, and suddenly the expectation changed. They were PCs, they should look like PCs and run PC apps at PC speeds.

            Desktop Linux is attempting to unseat an established brand with a wealth of co-dependent applications on the same exact hardware. We’re essentially trying to beat them at their own game, something Apple still hasn’t been able to do.

      • Alan Berends says:

        One of the things that I have a problem with is the “apt-get” and all the other processes that are unknown to all new people. You act like it is old hat and that’s most likely true to the point you don’t think it is a problem.

        I’m old enough to have used MS-DOS as an operating system and find that might give you an idea of how to solve this, or not. We would make up batch files that would do all of the operations for us so that it would be much easier. Now that’s a gigantic step backwards but it is better than try to learn all this code. Maybe it’s the only way and easy to all of you, but it is a major turn-off when trouble raises it’s ugly head.

        I installed Samba when I had problems connecting after one upgrade. Don’t have a clue how I got it to finally install but it’s there. I never use it, but it’s there. I could probably uninstall it, but again, I don’t have a clue whether I need it or not.

        My 12.04 installation locked up and from what I read, that could be waiting for some process so I let it run for 12 hours to be sure. Then the fun began. After restarting it, I was in the update mode for the next two days. It finally got all the desktop to install but the power button cannot be used to shut it down like before, and the desktop takes forever to get the top line of commands up.

        It kept trying to update from 12.04 to oneiric ocelot after that. Of course the installation tool would have none of that. It kept saying some packages could not be installed. So I kept installing the ones it would let me do. Finally, all attempts to update by my computer have stopped. And yes, I went to the Ubuntu help sites and discussions and none had any advice that pertained to my problems that I could find.

        From DOS to DR. DOS and a few others, I have been looking to get away from Microsoft for years. I was hoping this was the answer but the only way to figure out the problems is to have some newbies sit down in from of your engineers and just watch what they do and where they have problems. And yes, we have a life and most people I try to talk into trying Ubuntu say they don’t have the time to mess with it.

        Over 4 hours to download and much more than that to install. Any chance there could be smaller update packages while saving some small pieces of the last operating system? I would bet that almost half of the people that might be interested in Ubuntu would decline if told how long it takes to install. I have a 1Gig internet connection. Not the fastest but increasing to 2G had little speed increase and it almost doubled the price of the internet.

        I hope this doesn’t sound like I am completely down on Ubuntu, I keep trying and am still running one desktop and a laptop on 12.04. Mostly internet related activities but I keep my photo processing on MS along with my business programs. Keep up the good work and please take this as an attempt to help.

        • XT says:

          and i wud also like add to installation n upgrade problems mentioned by Alan Berends that after updation of ubuntu it ask to remove “older obselete packages” from the system but never gives a hint of what the packages are n what where they used for???
          Myself being a victim chose to remove it n in the process i removed the GUI provided leading my pc to start in command mode……n being new was perplexed what to do finally had to restore older version from recovery partion uninstalling all the upgradations done earlier……

    • Dave says:

      I would say however with the onset the of the poorly developed Win8, moving ecosystems shouldn’t be too much of a trauma.

    • Jim Blaich says:

      This is a tough thing to do, to overcome this false perception. To get people to understand that in the long run if they do switch it’s the best thing for them.

      For instance. If they do switch they’ll likely never have to switch again. Though there are lots of distros if they chose one and stick with it they’ll settle in and realize that everything is there, that Linux is pretty mature, and that there aren’t really any radical changes they need to undertake with each release/update.

      This’ll give me peace of mind. They won’t be concerned about back doors as you find in Mac OS X or iPhone and products such as Skype. In case many of you don’t know there is a concern that’s being proven out that back doors do exist. Skype does have a back door. It didn’t before Microsoft purchased it. There are other back doors and the facilities and technologies provided to authorities allowing them to crack the security of your portable Apple device in short order.

      That’s reason enough. You have security on Linux and with that security it is not likely that any back doors will be purposefully implemented in Linux as anyone can take the kernel and strip it out.

      The fact that there are few and far between viruses. That means no performance penalties due to running virus scanners.

      I really have no intention of making this a paranoid argument. That wasn’t the point. The point is that once users switch they have little need to worry. Other changes that lock you in and restrict you won’t exist. You won’t have some large entity misusing their position that once you are locked in they can change whatever they want on you, hidden from you.

      The other thing is that it is ANOTHER FALSE PERCEPTION that the users have to relearn everything if they switch to Linux. There is a learning curve, no doubt. If people were to switch to Macintosh they’d have a similar learning curve. If they buy an Android phone (or even an iPhone) there’s a learning curve. If they go with Win8 then there’s a learning curve. So, saying that people have to relearn everything and that is a hindrance is a HUGE EXAGGERATION.

      Those things they do day in and day out are still there. File management is pretty much the same. Desktop management is the same. Writing a letter is the same. Printing is the same. Browsing the web is the same. Playing music is the same. Watching a video is the same. Instant messaging is the same. And on and on and on to ad nauseum.

      Some of those things that are different are better. Not all, but many. For instance, updating your system is done all at once instead of users having to search for individual apps and updating them. The multitasking is better in Linux. The frequency of the update cycle can be considered good and bad. Good in that when the changes are made they’ll shortly become available, whereas under Windows you might wait for a long time before you see those bug fixes. The fact that most hardware just works under Linux without the need to install drivers is a big benefit. Not having to go through a second stage installing drivers (after the first stage of installing Windows) is another great benefit.

  4. 3vi1 says:

    I recently was forced, thanks to Windows XP viruses to reinstall my son’s computer.

    As my backups appeared to also be infected, and the initial install of Windows XP was a 2-day ordeal, I decided to install Windows 7 fresh on my son’s system. At the same time, I installed Ubuntu 12.04 (beta) on a separate partition for him to use for web browsing.

    Windows 7 wouldn’t install. Not until I disconnected (physically) the second hard drive so as to not confuse it’s little brain. Not only did Ubuntu install, but it set up a bootloader to boot both OS’s with no hassle whatsoever.

    Guess which OS didn’t recognize his wireless card?
    Guess which OS didn’t recognize his video card, and stuck in a horrible low rez?

    Thankfully, I was able to boot to the Ubuntu partition and download drivers for these things Windows could not find automagically.

    If it wasn’t for mainstream games, there would be no reason for Windows to exist.

  5. joda says:

    Do or do not, there is no try.

  6. Jon Crawford says:

    I’ve used both Macs and Linux for years, and not Windows. Everyone I know uses Windows. And, as Brian suggests, being annoyed with Windows is not sufficient incentive to get them to even consider something else, whether that’s OS X or Ubuntu. Their mindset is that the downside of using Windows is something that accompanies using any alternative OS. So, they reason, why endure the hassle and potential cost of switching when nothing much is really going to be different.

    My contention is that two weaknesses are holding Linux back in the home desktop user area. First, most major distributions are almost there in terms of fit and polish, but they need to go that last little bit. I’m always amazed when a distribution, for example, needs to be tweaked to improve the quality of the text and font display. Why just not set it optimally during the install? Why not put your best foot forward?

    Second, and more important, Linux lags behind in terms of innovative and appealing applications. That’s especially true compared to the OS X ecology. It seems to me that Linux apps are typically intended either to substitute rather directly for mainstream Windows apps, or are created by developers to meet the needs and interests of developers. I know that’s a blanket assertion with many anecdotal exceptions. But, when you are trying to lure reluctant people away from Windows, you need to give them an incentive. After 20 years, the evidence is in that the many existing benefits of Linux aren’t sufficient incentive. E.g., if you run Office on Windows already, the fact that LibreOffice is on Linux and doesn’t cost anything really counts for little. You already have Office. You paid for it. So, why switch? Quality mainstream apps that appeal to mainstream Soccer Moms and mainstream Couch Potato Dads would help provide new incentives.

    On App Stores: They may have their downsides from a developer’s point of view, but, as a user, I find them very, very convenient. When I need to find an app to do something, the App Store is the first place I turn. And, usually, the last.

    • Bernhard M. says:

      > Why just not set it optimally during the install?

      I found that this is for the same reason as the MP3 mentioned in the article. Some companies hold patents that might be applicable on optimizing font display. And shipping binaries in the USA seems to count as if you were selling a device that uses patented technology.

  7. Capital. A friend of mine installed Ubuntu 11.10 just a few days back and I went of the exact same points with him. Excellent work brother. Also they should if possible be more attentive to sources and information people are sharing with them so that they can better Understand this beautiful GNU/Linux Universe of ours. :-)

  8. gv says:

    you are so right

  9. Zachariah Callaway says:

    If they are missing an app store experience, switching to Ubuntu shouldn’t interfere with this I would recommend to fill this need.

  10. David L. Van Nice says:

    Great read, thank you. IMHO one point that you missed is when switching over to Linux your buddies can not even spell it let alone help you resolve any problems that occur leaving you to spend hours searching for the answers whereas problems with Windows all your buddies know something. One of the best features in Windows 7 is the built in tutorials, I have never seen anything like that on Ubuntu. I guess what I am saying is the “help me” base for Linux is so lacking that most people just give up rather than spend hours relearning.

    • Richard M. says:

      Are you serious?

      Ubuntu not only has a wiki (, fourms where you can ask for help (, there’s also LoCo (Local Communities) where you can talk to people in your area.

      And just for the record, most of my buddies are clueless idiots slamming on a keyboard when it comes to Windows. I have to help THEM.

      • Michael Hall says:

        Also AskUbuntu (, which is very good as Q&A

      • David L. Van Nice says:

        Hi Richard, thank you for making my point. Instead of searching for help me web sites why not include a tutorial, “need help go here”. An icon with links? Not all people read before downloading and if you have ever worked with the public you realize that includes most people.

      • Alan Berends says:

        One of the problems with Ubuntu, Linux, Kubuntu and a number of other versions is that we beginners don’t have a clue what the differences are amongst all of the above and which would be easiest to start with. And my experience with all the help forums left me wanting a more organized approach to getting whatever information I was seeking.

        I still have Ubuntu on one laptop and Kubuntu on a desktop. Ubuntu is running on a dual boot and the Kubuntu is running as the only operating system. User friendly is not how I would describe either of them. Some things which are so simple on Windows seem near impossible on Linux. I have a drive that cannot be recognized on Linux and I have not a clue what to do about it.

        In Windows, it is a simple task to identify all installed hardware including hard drives. Linux found some devices that Windows cannot but the occasional device that is not recognized opens another whole new can of worms. Good luck to any newbies out there, it’s not fun.

        Daniel L. Van Nice hit the nail on the head. None of my buddies is even willing to load up a version of Linux. My experience of the help forums was more like breaking into a confusing array of “knowledgeable” people who have completely different ideas of how a problem can be solved. One giving his best advice followed by a respondent who says that wouldn’t work and gives another alternative. Neither of which work. I never did get the drivers I needed for my wireless devices. I had to get different devices.

        Got them to be recognized on the network after 3 tries but never have been able to get the printer sharing to work. All my Windows computers share the same printer but the Linux cannot print unless I hook up a separate printer to each individually.

        I would love to understand the full workings of one of the Linux operating systems like you guys do but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t have the time to try every “solution” offered until I find one that works. I guess it’s easier blaming us for our inability to cope rather than fix the programs. But that’s not going to get people to change.

        I realize all functions cannot be included for free because of proprietary rights of the authors of some of these programs and processes. But a help section would be nice with some type of cataloging directory. Trouble with wireless, try this. Can’t share printers, try this, this and this. These don’t work, go to forum X and if all else fails, Company Y will assist with a charge for that help.

        Here’s an idea, ask some complete beginners to install 12.04 and report any problems they encounter. Suggest your best guess where a solution might be found and see if they can resolve the issues. I have one Linux version I couldn’t get to install, Lime something or another. In fact, just getting a bootable copy on CD/DVD is a task in itself. A simple procedure giving a step by step instruction for it is needed.

        There are many good things about Linux but there are some big problems that need to be resolved to make it more user friendly. My Nephew writes computer programs and he couldn’t get Linux running by himself. After we got around that one, he got tired of fighting with it and now won’t even attempt installation again. No amount of talk could convince him he needs to suck it up and try a little longer and harder. Windows is just easy. Linux might need to get a little “easier”.

        • Jim Blaich says:

          Kubuntu and Ubuntu are the same thing in most ways. Just like Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio and the many other similarly named distros. They all are derived from the Ubuntu core. Linux Mint is the same. All of those are derived from the Debian distribution. There are many others. What’s the difference?

          Essentially nothing. Some packages they chose to install. The primary and most obvious difference is in the desktop manager. Kubuntu is Ubuntu with KDE. Linux Mint is Ubuntu with some customization and the Mint customization to their desktop manager (really not a big deal). Mint has created a fork of the gnome 3 desktop manager called Cinnamon. It had been known for it’s customized version of gnome 2. It has a minty green color scheme. It has a different search engine named duck duck go (which I understand is really a Bing front end).

          There are basically 3 camps. One is the Debian camp (anything that uses .deb packages), and then the Red Hat camp (anything that uses the .rpm packages), and then the pure optimized camp (ones that have you compile everything from scratch with optimization to make it run at top performance instead of middle of the road performance of the general configurations). This third camp is the most difficult and it does hurt adoption when it is presented first to potential adopters.

          Windows is a general optimized OS. Nothing really specific to make it perform at peek performance. A generic kernel used to address everything. Ubuntu generally uses a generic kernel. Gentoo is one of those where all things are compiled during the install. Macintosh is more a compiled for peek performance though that is changing due to all the different and additional hardware they are incorporating into their OS.

          Each distribution is different in what they chose to install, though most install the same major apps and configure theirs the same as everyone else. The distribution was created because whomever created it decided that they wanted something different from that which they “forked”, “branched”, “derived” (whatever term you want to apply). This is sometimes better and sometimes worse depending on how different they are. The differences in the install, configuration and update of Ubuntu vs. Gentoo are pretty stark, unless you are very well versed in Linux where they really would seem minor to you.

          Now, don’t take everything I wrote as literal. That wasn’t the point. It should be good enough to give you some idea of why you don’t get absolute definitions of the differences between distributions. And even if you know all this maybe seeing it written out by someone else can help you better explain it to potential adopters.

  11. Ike says:

    it’s stupid that you need a to have an administrative password to use an application at only works at the user level, like a stupid game or something. I can’t stand that the repository system is the only working solution. So many applications in the ubuntu software center are so old and don’t even work. For instance, kdenlive is totally screwed in 12.04 And i very highly doubt it will get fixed before release. Also0 blender 6.62 came otu way before the feature freeze and it was not updated….. with this system it takes out the majesty of using new stable releases of software. Linux needs an appbundle system that works with the repository fior installign stuff not in th repository. It’s not just “power users” that want to use the new stable stuff. People shouldn’t have to install 30 ppas just to use well established software. Until there’s a cross-distro appbundle system that is supported with integration by the desktops, file managers, indexing systems, and distros, poeple will continue to be frustrated. Hard drive space is cheaper and cheaper and if it means duplicating some libraries to insure someone can just get some new software and use it no hassle, i think it’s a fair trade. I don’t know anyone who would trade OSX’s concrete set of installations methods for Linux’s cluster-f***. That being said i care too much about free software not to just put up with it and install a crap load of PPAs just to use art programs. Linux needs to come together for this one thing. Other solutions for installations can exist too, but they need to come together for one flexible unified easy solution that is shared.

    • Jim Blaich says:

      I’ll address a point you make here.

      We don’t need the admin password to run an end user application. We are only prompted for the password when we perform an administrative function. An example of an administrative function might be performing package updates for the OS.

      In case some don’t know, Windows 7 requires we to give administrative authority for deleting an icon off the start menu. Though I don’t agree that we are being prompted for a password for a user action I do know we are being prompted by Windows 7 and Vista to remove a basic icon off the start menu.

      Linux is more secure for a reason. That security brings with it end-user responsibility. Part of that is providing a password to do administrative things. At least the password prompts under Linux don’t force a long delay, then potentially a black screen, and then a dialog box that does not really identify the task that you are performing. In other words, the way Linux does it is faster and more secure.

      Most of the regular users of Linux were once Windows users, to some extent. We’ve all been through the learning curve, or they are undergoing it now. I don’t mind when someone brings up well thought out issues and complaints with usability. Those need to be addressed immediately. But, when those points have no place in a reasoned mind do I tend to correct them, because false perceptions spread unabated can kill any product.

      For instance, someone said the iPad 3 gets real hot. The temperatures were measured and yes some get super hot. I believe I’ve seen some sites provide a measurement of 113 degrees (f). That is very hot to sit on your lap. Later on a video podcast someone was trying to claim that that isn’t hot and that all Android tablets get that hot. Both those claims are false. Some Android tablets can get hot, though I have never seen one and none of them get as hot as the iPad 3.

      The person making the claim was trying to save the iPad3 consumer perception. He misused his access to the public to make false claims in order to puff up perception of the iPad3. I generally address those types of things.

      So, the need for an elevation of privileges is only for those cases where you are required to perform an administrative function, and is not required for user level access (unless someone messed up some individual application’s requirement).

  12. Chris Lees says:

    Quality applications and better documentation would be the two things I could wish for on Linux. The other thing I want is better integration between programs; we’re all on the same team, let’s work together!

    People try Linux and people switch full-time to Linux. Arguing about the reasons is a little beside the point of this article; the point of the article is to explain what mindset to be in once you get there. I will, however, say that this article’s readership will increase dramatically once Windows 8 is out there.

    My first suggestion to a new user would be to recognise that you are now a newb. No matter what kind of outrageous Windows-fu you can pull, it does you absolutely no good here; it’s time to open your mind again and be willing to learn.

    My second suggestion would be DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES follow instructions for an older distribution on your system. The “how to change your splash screen HOWTO” from 2008 will probably break your system totally in any distro made after 2008. Make sure any instructions you follow are up-to-date.

    My third suggestion is to be careful of anyone who advises you to solve a problem by removing part of the system. These people mean well. They may have once solved an audio-lagging problem in 2008 by removing Pulseaudio. However, this course of action probably won’t solve your “My microphone input is quiet” problem. In fact, it will most likely stop your microphone input from working at all. If anyone tries to tell you to remove a package to solve a problem, get a second opinion.

    My last suggestion is to keep your distro up-to-date. Always use the latest version unless you have a real good reason not to. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the Ubuntu Forums like “How do you do XYZ on Ubuntu 10.04” and inevitably they get the reply “I can’t remember, all I know is that it was difficult on 10.04 but it works out-of-the-box on later versions”.

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  15. Brad says:

    I’m a novice Linux user, have played with Ubuntu and a few other distros and I love Linux, but as a Photographer it’s not a viable option at the moment. I’m DYING for Adobe to port their products (Lightroom and Photoshop) to Linux. I can’t stand Windows (what I currently use) and refuse to fork out the dough for Mac stuff.

    • Joseph G. Mitzen says:

      You might like to check out Riley Brandt’s article on how a professional photographer tried setting up a workflow with Linux:

      I have an issue with people who continually claim that Linux isn’t “viable” for this, that or something else (often even as a general user desktop). It’s like no matter how good you are, being denied entrance to the Olympics or something. Linux is being dismissed out of hand and not allowed to even be taken into consideration. Windows is a viable operating system, OS X is a viable operating system, Linux is a viable operating system. Each might be better for certain users, but none are so bad as to not be a viable alternative. Photoshop isn’t the only capable image editing software in existence. I’m reminded of a user who kept be told that they’d would use GIMP but there were just tasks X, Y, and Z that couldn’t be done with it that could be with Photoshop. She proceeded to make screencasts of herself doing the “impossible to do with GIMP” tasks in GIMP and put them up on her blog. :-) As Riley Brandt confesses, it’s often just a case of people not knowing enough about GIMP (or another tool) or expecting them to work just like Photoshop.

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  17. NoMis says:

    One thing I’ve noticed, as have many commentators on each article, is that many of the problems are due to faulty perceptions or assumptions, not faulty software.

    Duh well, if people all around the internet keep insisting that Linux is so much better than Windows than it’s no wonder people are expecting something better when they finally try it.

    1) You probably didn’t install Windows

    Windows plays DVD, mp3 and other popular codecs out of the box and does not need a “trivialy easy” way to install.

    2) You’re not just switching OS, you’re switching ecosystems

    By that you mean, the user is switching to the weaker ecosystem. The user does not care why his favorite app is not available on Linux, the only thing that matters is that it isn’t available. The problem here is that Linux does not over any significant advantage to justify it’s weaker ecosystem.
    Windows can run all of the favorite OSS apps that Linux has and has a huge amount of freeware and commercial software available on top of it.
    It also has little to do with the portability of the codebase. Lots of windows developers these days are “smart enought” to write portable code. This is especially true for games because they need to support the most important game platforms today, wich are consoles. But that does not mean they are portet to Linux.
    Linux does not have a large enought market and has problems with fragmentation and API inconsinstencies that create problems for software developers and raise maintenence costs.
    The Linux community however constantly ignores any problems Linux has.

    3) The Anthropic principle

    Care to mention any specific examples? What exacly is not possible in windows that is possible in Linux? A usefull example please. Not something like desktop cube or some silly stuff that the avarage user does not care about. Don’t even dare to mention that someone can edit the source code because that is neither usefull or practical for the majority of users.
    In my experience it’s more like “Don’t get stuck looking for a solution to a problem in Linux that you didn’t had in Windows, there is none!”.

    4) Look before you install

    Nice, the distro installs a shit ton of crap for me. Who cares. Microsoft could not possibly bundle everything.

    5) Google isn’t an app store

    The fact that you say Linux does things a lot smarter is rather ironic, because it’s actually the other way around.
    Having a central repository to get software from a trusted source isn’t the problem here. I can see how this is an advantage, I really do. Kinda like steam for software.
    But all you see is the software center and think delivering software for Linux is super easy.
    Windows is smart because it offers a consistent platform that people can actually deliver software onto and offers great backward compatibility.
    In Linux you have this whole dependency mess and new versions of software get tied to new version of the OS or need to be backported to older versions. And each distro does the packaging themselfs in incompatible package formats. It’s a huge amount of wasted time and one of the reasons why commercial vendors don’t even bother to look at Linux.
    If you want new versions of software you have to update your whole OS! That sounds rather stupid actually and is far from being “smarter than windows”.

    • Johnny says:

      This is probably the best review of Linux use I can think of.

      If I want to tinker around and build stuff as a hobby, Linux would be good. If I’m looking to play the best games and have backward compatibility and support, Windows is good. All the benefits of Linux don’t help the average consumer, and if they think it’s so gravy to have Linux to check email or web surf safely, why not box it in a Windows based emulator or virtual machine? Same use of the safety feature without booting into a whole new system.

      Linux isn’t what the majority takes because it has nothing to offer them. If you want an efficient and free OS for doing work related stuff, Linux. If not, Windows. It’s really that simple in the mind of a consumer.

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  19. Alan Berends says:

    Posting from this morning:

    My 12.04 installation locked up and from what I read, that could be waiting for some process so I let it run for 12 hours to be sure. Then the fun began. After restarting it, I was in the update mode for the next two days. It finally got all the desktop to install but the power button cannot be used to shut it down like before, and the desktop takes forever to get the top line of commands up.

    It kept trying to update from 12.04 to oneiric ocelot after that. Of course the installation tool would have none of that. It kept saying some packages could not be installed. So I kept installing the ones it would let me do. Finally, all attempts to update by my computer have stopped. And yes, I went to the Ubuntu help sites and discussions and none had any advice that pertained to my problems that I could find.

    Oops, spoke too soon, I had a bunch of updates about a half hour ago. It shut down again saying tool could not update from Precise Pangolin to Oneiric Ocelot. But it will be back and I will try to get as many updates in as possible. This is my desktop, I don’t have the system menu on this either. There is nothing to the right of the date. I hit the power button to power down.

  20. Janith Olagama says:

    I am a Linux lover (I have install almost all the versions of Ubuntu, Now i have Linux mint 15)
    But the problem is always i am moving between windows and Ubuntu.

    Common problems i have with Ubuntu are

    1. My laptop battery is draining as nothing.(This is long term known issue, Still no proper solution)
    2. I have to adjust my display brightness each and every boot up
    3. Touch pad is not sensitive as windows
    4. And recently after i turn on the recommendations on Software Center each and every boot up it ask me to key the password and no where to disable this bullshit.
    5. Now Comes to android (It is also a Linux based Mobile OS) I could not connect to internet on android through the wireless network created in Ubuntu as well as Linux Mint(But in windows this can be done very easily).This is not a problem on android device because it is easily recognize windows ad-hoc networks.

    I love Linux and hate windows ( I don’t want office and any windows application to run everything i want i can easily find from Ubuntu) but sadly i have to be with pointless windows due to above reasons .I am not a IT Guy or Advance user of OSs rather an average user who browse internet (Can have Firefox or Chrome) and use spreadsheet application to do some office work (Can have Open office).But i want my laptop battery to stay at least for three hours rather than one hour, and i want my PC to share internet to my android device, these are very genuine concerns.

    I really want to use Ubuntu as my laptop OS.

    I know developers dedicate lot of their time and knowledge to get the things done but they should also understand the face that the world is prepared to accept open source, But if they are to shift there should be a reason and convinced way of shifting.

    I really really love Ubuntu (and i don’t have any problem with unity or global menu in ubuntu, I don’t want windows on Ubuntu) and hope in future canonical will try to convert every windows users to Ubuntu by elimination each and every gap between Ubuntu and Windows. Canonical should have a procedure to collect feedback from Ubuntu users (Categorize problems into main topics and ask users to update their problems under these categories, and try to resolve these issues on every release and publish these are the commonly asked problems and we have attend to them and resolved them, If this thing can be done within two to three years they can attract 70% to 80% of current windows users.

  21. Johnny says:

    Want to know what really stops people from switching to Ubuntu or other Linux distros?

    sudo -get

    It’s not learning an entire computer language for programming, but it’s still a computer system-specific set of terms that are required to load stuff. I remember having to research the proper phrases in order to install my drivers for my older video card. On the other hand, people can just read the box of the mfg for their video card, google it, download the .Exe that opens and installs everything for you, and you’re done. You don’t have to know anything or learn phrases to use with a command line.

    The second thing that stops people from switching is compatibility for games among other applications that only run in Windows. Ideally, instead of saying that games designed for Windows will not work in Linux distros, you would have had people develop parts of the OS so that it ran just like windows and could support those games to run. One of the things I learned from doing a little reading on Linux is that all OSes are not what they appear to be at face value. They aren’t a complete construct that is like what is appears to be on the screen. OSes are actually bundles of different operations performing in the background and the screen is just a rendering of these operations based on yet another bundle. It’s conceptually different to how most people view OSes.

    I got Eve Online to run in Ubuntu after a lot of work, but due to the older video card and the system requiring that WinLux or LuxWin emulator, things ran even slower than Windows and there were sometimes bugs that crashed the game. That was a few years ago.

    Linux distros will always be a niche market so long as they can’t perform the task of point and click installation of software and solving OS problems by the user, and the inability to use Windows applications and especially games. I would have switched to Ubuntu if it played any of my games out of the box, and as it is I have games from 1997 for windows that I still play, which certainly aren’t supported. On top of that, Emulators for even older games almost never have support in Linux distros. Most people don’t want to spend the time to develop a platform universal App. Jnes sure doesn’t. Eve online used to support two versions of the game, the low-res version which I could play on without getting -5fps, and the hi-res version. The low res-version was dumped because they claimed it took too much maintenance to maintain two versions. Ideally, software would be universally applicable and people can scale down it’s processes to a something their system can manage while also not being OS dependent. I don’t know how much more work or money that takes, but until there’s a global 60’s revival of people wanting to share and give freely and a massive collaboration of “windoizing” Ubuntu or any other Linux, it simply can’t compete to support natively or BE supported by applications that are sold for profit, such as games and big name apps. It’s even less likely for free apps like Jnes to be supported, because the developer may not know enough to universalize the program, or they may not feel the time is worth it. They got their app out to the majority which is all anyone really cares about when it comes to development of a product.

    In all of the desire for another OS, the lack of point and click and app support for “windows” products are the most damning things. Better just to dual OS, but then if you dual OS, what’s the point if you can do anything in Ubuntu you can do in Windows anyway, with the addition of running the software you want.

    Until Ubuntu or any other version can offer something more than just OS stability, and net security, and the curiosity of running “something different”, it will never ever be more than a niche.

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