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03/26/2007 Archived Entry: ""

I've desperately tried to like Linux.

Debra here. In my software binder, I have copies of Slax, Puppy, Fedora Core, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Mandrake, Mandriva, Knoppix and Debian. I've installed them all. But when it comes down to it, I always crawl back to Windows. Why?

Here's a classic example. I want to install Skype onto a Windows XP Pro system and a Linux Kubuntu 6.06 system. I compared the times to install, starting after I downloaded the Skype install package in both instances. The results speak for themselves:

1.Downloaded skype's .exe package
2.Double-clicked on it and followed the wizard
3.Started using Skype.

Total install time: < 4 minutes

1.Downloaded Skype's debian package
2.Double-clicked on it and got the following error: "utility ar is not in your path"
3.Searching forums indicates I must “install binutils bt“
4.Searched for binutils, which I found at the GNU FTP site
5.Timed out attempting to connect to GNU FTP site
6.Found binutils on the RedHat site, which redirected me to the (non-working) GNU FTP site
7.Found binutils on Debian site. Clicking on the link to the packages gave me a page with multiple options: libc6, libc6.1, libgcc1. There's no explanation. Underneath is a table labeled “download binutils”. I click on i386, which leads me to the mirror sites to download the bin utils. ALL of them are in Debian format, which I can't install because I don't have binutils installed. Back to Google.
8.On kernel.org I find dozens of releases, dating from the 1990s to three days ago. There's no explanation on which are stable, beta, etc. I click the most recent version. It's a 10-page word document stating “this is the most recent version”. But there's no file ... just the document. I scroll back up and realize that some files are the install files, some are text documents. There's no extension on the text documents, but the install files have a variety of extensions. I recognize RPM and pray that Kubuntu recognizes it, since previous attempts at installing Tar files via Ark have failed. I download the most recent RPM file.
9.I click the RPM file and get a popup asking what program I want to open it with. Back to Kernel.Org
10.I download the most recent .tar.gz file.
11.Right-clicked on the downloaded software and chose “extract to here”. Got a “wait” message.
12.Clicked on the extracted directory, which showed what appeared to be hundreds of sub-files. None were labeled “start” “run” “click here you idiot” or similar.
13. Had to stop because I was doing this when I was supposed to be working.
14.Total install time so far: 52 minutes.... and it's still not loaded.

I use computers to improve my life, not to complicate it. I get no pleasure from navigating my way through esoteric syntax, bizarre coding, switching between command line and GUI, reading page after page of user forums that seem to be speaking a foreign language, or trying to figure out what utilities I need to install in order to run a program IN ORDER TO RUN A PROGRAM. I want to click a button and – POW! – it works. Because I have better things to do than screw around with computers.

Everything MS can do, Linux can do better, more securely, and more cheaply (and with much less snooping by third parties, be they corporate, hackers, or fedgov). BUT all of the applications – and indeed the distros themselves -- are written with other code-monkeys in mind, leaving the rest of us out in the cold.

Microsoft understands that most people don't want to make a second career out of learning how to add a printer, install a program, or enable a wireless card. Until someone starts looking at average “sheep” users (like myself) with an eye toward making it easy for them (instead of trying to turn them into mini-hackers), Microsoft will continue to rule the world.

And I'll be right there, running their software.

Posted by Debra @ 02:41 PM CST

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