Monday, March 24, 2008

Ubuntu Misconceptions

I read a blog about someone disliking Linux (it's linked above). The About page describes him as being a kid, so I don't want to be too rough on him, but the blog entry contains so many factual error (not differences of opinion) that I just can't let it sit. I posted an answer for him, but since his story will probably be read and believed by his peers, I'm really worried. Here's the summary:

Problems that plague every Linux and make Linux inheritably bad. Hardy is mentioned several times.

1) The file hierarcy sucks.

There's nothing like Spotlight or Windows Search.

The filesystem is incredibly confusing, so that you can't find your files. Includes screenshot of "/" filesystem.

2) Drivers suck. You only have two choices -- install Linux on something you already bought or buy it pre-installed. I can't install Linux because it doesn't have SATA drivers.

3) RTFM and "Write it yourself" responses from the Linux crowd. Linux users are smug and generally jerks.

4) Application installation is difficult. Some stuff is available in repositories, but if you need a special version of software, you're going to need to download SVN and compile it. This kind of problem doesn't exist on Windows or Mac.

5) The desktop environments are incompatible. You can't run KDE apps in Gnome. There are too many distributions. The community need to get together and make one distro to rule them all with one desktop envirionment.

My response (I wrote this before I knew that he was a teenager -- I should have been gentler):

This HAS to be a troll, right?

1) The filesystem. Your files are stored in /home/(your user name). Inside that directory (by default in Ubuntu since 7.10) are:

That’s it. Nothing more. Damn confusing, isn’t it? When you open a file browser, you go to your user directory, NOT the one you showed. There are also very convenient links to these user diectories in the left sidebar. The normal user NEVER needs to go where you showed, nor would it be easy for them to go there. People don’t go wandering through the Windows system files, either, if they know what’s good for them.

The default applications store your files in the appropriate place … by default. They manage it for you. The photo manager tags everything. The music manager uses artist/album. Even the video player has search.

If you want to find a specific file, you use something like the deskbar applet, which will search for file names or by full-text. It also handles dictionary lookups, web searches, application lauching, and many other things. These indexed file searchers (now trackerd and Beagle before that) have been installed by default since 6.10. You need to look harder, like in Accessories under “Search tool” or in the notification area, where a little magnifying glass is waiting for you.

2) Drivers. I won’t argue with you about a lack of Linux drivers except to say that any modern desktop distribution has SATA support. Every one.

You have a third option when getting a computer. Ordering one built to your specifications with known working hardware. This is the route I take and I NEVER need to do any post-installation work on drivers. It takes more work, though, and I can understand your issues with drivers, especially for printers and scanners.

3) Problem with community. You’re in the wrong community. Some, like Slackware, are more aligned with hardcore geeks. The Ubuntu forums FORBID responses like the ones you refer to, though I do want to say that finding jerks on the Internet is not limited to the Linux camp, nor even computer OSes or technology. Anonymity brings out the worst in most people. Welcome to the Internet.

4) Compiling from source. This problem is no different than on OSX or Windows. If the program is packaged for you, you can install it easily. If it isn’t, you’re generally out of luck unless the source code is released, in which case you’ll have to compile it yourself. I recently read about how to compile wget for Mac OSX.

You can complain about the availability of proprietary programs on Linux, and I will agree with you, though OSX seems to suffer a lot of the same problems. If fact, I’d venture to say there are fewer choices for Mac than there are for Linux.

5) Incompatibilities. Granny will never find that her KDE app can’t tun in Gnome because it can. All the major desktop environments follow the specifications at, meaning that they can communicate with each other. Before that, though, they STILL didn’t have the problem you describe, so I don’t even know where you are getting it from. Window managers will run whatever you give them and don’t care about what libraries the program uses. For example, Amarok (a KDE app) is one of the most popular post-installation add-ons for Ubuntu (a Gnome distributution). The two have a slightly different look and feel, and I don’t like to mix and match because I don’t want extra libraries. Both Cocoa and Carbon apps work(ed) in Mac OSX. This is no different.

Now I realize that you’re unhappy with Linux. That’s your deal. I’m not trying to change your mind or jump all over you. Before you start putting out a bunch of false facts, though, try doing just a little bit of checking on them.

As I said in my first line, these assertions are so wrong on so many levels that I don’t even think you tried.


  1. Hi I would agree that he has went to the wrong community :)

    I only got serious about moving over to Linux once the support via Google etc. was comparable to the windows platform.
    Ubuntu forums just blows that away, for a new user that is the first thing I do - get them signed up.

    The difficulty with '/' and the hierarchy is something every windows user will hit. Its as though an English speaker, who was brought up believing that there was only one lauguage, was suddenly confronted with the fact that there are lots ;)
    He just needs to hang in there and it will come in time, but he has to want to.

    Where I do have sympathy regarding file searching.

    The search tool that most of us stumble across is “Search tool” and I have to say this is horrible. I hated it so much I ended up doing some research and installed catfish... what a breath of fresh air! It just does what I want it to - it is also easy to see and set the option (none of with are hidden).

    Now to be fair I added the deskbar applet and tried search finder...

    * Not as fast as catfish but it looks nice - tried doing a search... mmhh now I remembered why I hated it ;) - the interface for setting the options is horrible!

    * I played about with it and looked up the help function - OK I see what you need to do, you need to click on the '+' button AFTER selecting the option you want from the drop down list!!! This is just so counterintuitive my eyes are bleeding. As it says "search in text" I thought this was the default...

    * Oh another reason I hated it - I couldn't resize the columns!!! Again playing about, yes you can but the bloody functionality is again hidden!!!!!! (more than three !'s is a sign of madness or huge frustration). So no visual hint that you can size the columns, no 2 headed arrow, but if you know the supasecret you just click on the boundary between the 2 columns and move it where you want! Aggh!!!

    Come on guys this is what you subject a new user to? COME ON!

    OK now that I know how to use it, particularity from the deskbar applet, I may find it useful but for a new user the search finder is just a way of telling then to go back to windows.


  2. You needn't worry. I wouldn't be surprised if not one prospective Linux user saw that post, except possibly in a history class 20 years from now. Teacher: "Notice the willful ignorance, logic of convenience, and sophomoric attitude this individual is displaying. With the aid of the Forensic Internet Project, we've been able to trace him to one of the recipients of Microsoft's Acer Ferrari goodwill laptops. By the way, those are hot items on Ebay right now. Your assignment this week is to determine if this individual and others like him were part of a concerted, well funded effort by Microsoft or just the rantings of a frightened and misguided person. Oh, since this is History Immersion Week so you will not be able to use any character analysis software and you must use keyboards, if you can find them, no voice or Thoughtput."

    The only people who read these blogs are Linux and Microsoft tech-type people. And from what I can see, Linux is winning. Not the desktop, that we're winning slowly right now, the Blogsphere. I don't know why that is. It could be that almost everyone who uses Linux becomes an active participant in watching over it and protecting it when it gets attacked. Where as the only people who attack Linux and defend Microsoft are people who make money off it. Makes sense I guess. If that's the case then Bloggers and commenters for Linux outnumber their Microsoft counterparts by a wide margin.

    We may be seeing a trend here. I've seen a few of these vitriolic rants lately, similar in composition. I'm usually quick to comment, but they make great statements by themselves as to the kind of person who would use Microsoft's products. I think as Linux gains more ground into their perceived territory, we'll see more of these attacks.

  3. "3) Problem with community. You’re in the wrong community. Some, like Slackware, are more aligned with hardcore geeks. The Ubuntu forums FORBID responses like the ones you refer to"

    You are seeing it way too black and white. Things are not like what you think. Ironically I have got many times much more frendlier and more helpful response from the Debian community than from Ubuntu community.

    As long as you are asking some basic questions then you can expect to get nice answer from Ubuntu community. But if you ask something more difficult then you start getting answers like RTFM. If you ask the same basic or advanced question from the Debian community then in my experience there is almost always someone willing to help. I have seen this in both IRC and user forums.


Other I' Been to Ubuntu Stories

Related Posts with Thumbnails