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Software installation in Linux is difficult

July 2, 2009

Suppose you want to play the game “Hearts” on your computer.  And suppose, like me, you were cheap and wanted to get it for free.  Lucas sent me a screenshot-by-screenshot comparison of the installation on a Linux machine vs. a Windows machine.  It’s a joke written by a popular operating system.  (Hint: Linux plays the straight man.)

And that’s congruent with my experience too.  At work I’m building four Windows platforms that we’ll Ghost out to hundreds of machines.  It’s time-consuming to ferret out all the Windows ‘annoyances’ and create a build anyone would want to use.

But this evening, I came home and decided to rebuild my Linux machine.  I booted off the CD, made a few choices, and went upstairs for dinner.  After the meal, I made a few more choices and wound up with a ready-to-use machine.  My total keyboard time investment?  About twenty minutes.  Try building a Windows machine in twenty minutes.

Categories: Geeky, Software
  1. July 3, 2009 at 01:10 | #1

    Ok, so I’m interested… how long does it take to build a windows machine? with or without all the updates, and do you want it to be virus and malware protected as well, or am I just shooting myself in the foot in the dark?

    Cheers, Taz ~ just in one of my wine(r) moods, I guess I need a refill.

  2. July 3, 2009 at 05:45 | #2

    It depends what the Win install is for.  At work we spend literally weeks getting everything right because it’s a complex build and we’re going to image it to hundreds of machines.  It’s a business college so we use the Microsoft Office suite plus a lot of analytical/simulation programs, each with their own licensing and update scheme.  We support almost every imaginable media format, and have different web browsers including one that’s just used for administering tests in Blackboard. 

    At home, the Win-build is simpler, so probably total “only” four or five hours of actual keyboard time.  In both cases, the build has to have all its shots, er, system patches and anti-virus, with auto-updating setup.

    Applications we avoid at home: Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office.  I’m thinking of replacing our last remaining Win machine with a Mac.  Ultimately that will be the user’s decision; I’m just the husband/tech-support guy.  My client doesn’t seem interested in trying Linux, unfortunately.

    This machine is Ubuntu 9.04.  It was amazingly fast and easy to install, and it seems to handle the video settings easier than 7.x. Which is good because I am not exactly a Linux guru. 

    I think I might buy a bigger monitor tomorrow.  Well, today; the sun is coming up.

  3. July 3, 2009 at 07:12 | #3

    Ah yes the sun, I think at times that as I have aged, (gracefully or so I’d like to think) that I have also inherited the worrying parent gene or otherwise known as the “vampire” gene.

    I wish I had kids to blame this lack of ability to shut my brain off at the first hint of sleepiness, but not so.

    Like you, I am the computer tech person, but my “boss” barely knows how to turn the desktop on, usually has to ask if it isn’t already on, and find his name on the screen so he can play the only thing he knows which is his hunting game. You should have heard him when I changed it to “Dear Hunter”, instead of the usual “Dave” he was used to. (Maybe it was the way I spelled Deer that upset him like when I ask him to shut the windows and I really mean the blinds?)

    And I thought I was being cute… Oh well, romance has died I suppose and the old adage in our part of the country is, “Please Bury me in the Woods so my Husband will Hunt for Me”.

    I guess I better git before I start to shrivel from the daylight. Unfortunately, my alarm clock is of the feline type, and He just doesn’t understand that when I don’t get to bed until 5 or 6 am, that it’s NOT ok to wake me at 9:30am with His natural tendencies to lick my eyelids, put his paw on my lips and try to pry them apart, (scares me to think what he’d do if it was open due to snoring!) or just climbs under the covers and attempts to push me out of bed with all four paws. It’s when this happens that I realize I guess I have no choice but to get up and start another day with a “cat nap”.

    The more tired I get the “puny” my thinking gets.

    So with that, I’m glad I had to reinstall from my older recovery discs. I missed reading your posts and now I have the “nads” to post my own, if not warped at least somewhat sarcastic to some, thoughts about life and how I view colors through true hobo kelly glasses. I miss shows like that for kids that made them use their brains and imaginations…but I’ll save this tangent for another time.

    Flowers to all who have no garden, water to those that do, for all we really need in life to grow big and strong, fragrant and colorful is to be able to say, They love me, They love me not, they love me, they love me not…they love me…

    Cheers, Melunie

  4. July 3, 2009 at 10:18 | #4

    I was going to say something, but I know so little about how computer operating systems work, other than when they obviously represent some idiocy, that I’d better keep my own counsel.

  5. Les
    July 3, 2009 at 12:47 | #5

    Dunno what I’m doing wrong, but the last install I did of Windows 7 took about 20 minutes and it already has a free install of Hearts on it. Same is true for the last install I did of Windows Vista.

    Sure, if you start with Windows XP SP1 or SP2 you’re going to have massive updates to download. Start off with XP SP3 and it’s probably much less of an issue.

    And while I realize the Linux install comparison you pointed to was meant as a tongue-in-cheek thing, I’d still like to see you install World of Warcraft on it. It can be done and it even works half-way decently, but it’s definitely a lot more involved than it is under Windows.

    I’m sure if we sit around long enough we can find enough things to cherry pick on both OSes to make the point go either way. Comparing Windows XP SP3, which was released over a year ago, to the latest build of Ubuntu is hardly a fair competition. It’s not like a year-old install of Ubuntu wouldn’t have plenty of updates and patches to download and install.

  6. July 3, 2009 at 14:29 | #6

    The relative difficulty of installation depends on what I’m installing. Most installations I’ve attempted go more smoothly in Linux, but that’s not always true. Some hardware still isn’t supported well in Linux, particularly 3D graphics and Wifi. There’s also a dearth of video editing software, and multimedia software that works was, for a time, nearly impossible to obtain without compiling the stuff. Both of those situations have more to do with the state of the law than they do with the technology itself.

    Still, when it comes to installing new software, it’s hard to imagine things getting much easier than they are on either RPM/yum or APT-based Linux distributions. Generally speaking, all you need to know is what sort of software you’re after. The installation utilities figure out the rest.

    As for installing lots of copies of a system, I’ve actually been able to create my own distro. It could install on just about any hardware that Red Hat Linux supported at the time. I could make all the copies I wanted. If most of your hardware is the same, you can use a kickstart file or its equivalents.

    I can usually figure out what’s wrong in Linux.  While the error messages can read like a foreign language to people who don’t understand computers, just Googling for those error messages will turn up explanations and possible fixes. I’ll take that over the inscrutable BSOD, or the equally inscrutable “An error has occurred” dialog box, any time.

    There is so much software available that I usually have several choices for a particular function. There’s so much high-quality free software available for Linux and Unix these days that I’m a bit surprised that Windows isn’t the niche OS.

  7. July 3, 2009 at 16:44 | #7

    Les, clearly Win 7 is better than XP of any Service Packitude. And if you have big, Win-specific apps to run, then Windows it is, natch.

    But the twenty minutes of keyboard time I described above includes the OS install, and all my apps and all the patches appertaining thereunto.  Since it involved an extremely small number of mouse clicks on my part, I just thought it was pretty cool.

  8. July 3, 2009 at 17:22 | #8


    And while I realize the Linux install comparison you pointed to was meant as a tongue-in-cheek thing, I’d still like to see you install World of Warcraft on it. It can be done and it even works half-way decently, but it’s definitely a lot more involved than it is under Windows.

    I don’t think it’s fair to put blame on Ubuntu that WoW doesn’t work on it. If Blizzard wanted to they could port their software to .nix platform. The onus should be on them not the open source crowd.

    I’m sure if we sit around long enough we can find enough things to cherry pick on both OSes to make the point go either way.

    Agreed. Which is why I have started to be a little more picky in the people I recommend certain OSs to.

    On a different note has anyone tried ReactOS? It’s supposed to be a direct replacement to Windows and supposed to be able to run any software that is compatible with MS. I haven’t tried but I am certainly going to give it a go at some point this summer.

  9. July 3, 2009 at 22:22 | #9

    Well, hello. The sun has almost gone down, so it’s time for some wine, yes?

    Speaking of Wine, I like what the ReactOS has to offer, but feel at this time with my extremely limited programming abilities, it’s still above me.

    However, I found a link to Bordeaux and of course I know it’s wine, but it’s got me thinking. If it runs MS OS programs, to which I have been a slave too all these years, but offers a Linux base through Wine 1.1.23, well you’ve got my attention. However, can someone tell me more about this distro as I’m looking to dual boot on a WINOS HD that is currently all one partition?

    I like the interface of Ubuntu and the fact that it includes a partition manager, but have not gone that route yet on my laptop. New HD and all want to make sure I do it correctly the first time. Wubi didn’t work the first time either, so am a bit tenuous about it all…

    I’ve also downloaded, not installed, Pmagic 1.2 and would like some help with that as well. Do I need to have Linux installed first to use it? or can I load it and use it? I know brain fart ?, but maybe after my 2nd glass of wine I’ll brighten up?

    Any help here would be great.

  10. July 4, 2009 at 07:41 | #10

    Webs, can you help?  I think those are guru questions.

  11. July 4, 2009 at 22:21 | #11

    I haven’t played around with any OSs other than Ubuntu in about 4 years so I am a bad source of information there. But I would recommend giving Ubuntu a try because of the support and community, certainly the best.

    My recommendation for installing Ubuntu if that is what you want to do, is to manually setup your partition for your install when you get to that point. Click on your hard drive and click erase (if it is a new one). Then choose new partition. What I do is give 60% of the total available Ubuntu space to the first partition which should be root “/”. Then give 3.5GB to the second partition, choose “swap”. Then give the rest to “/home”. What this gives you is some flexibility. If you screw up your system with one command and reinstall all you have to do is choose the same setup but don’t format “/home” and when you reinstall you will not lose any settings or account data. Also be sure to choose “ext3” for partition type, unless you have read up on the others and know what your doing.

    Once installed run the updates and have fun!

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