Ubuntu is not quite ready for non-geek users.
After years of cursing you know who I finally took the plunge. I decided to switch to Ubuntu cold turkey. I love it – am glad I did it – and do not regret. I just wish it were finally ready for prime time – it isn’t. IF you personally know a computer geek who will assist you or are a do-it-yourself type with the time to figure it all out I encourage you to go for it now.
If that does not describe you hang on for a bit. I will be posting here about learning Ubuntu and recording the how-to information I have to research. I will also do my best to help the wonderful folks donating their time and expertise to the Ubuntu project so we can get it to the point that it IS ready for anyone currently using Microsoft Windows, Vista, Apple or Mac.
Installing Ubuntu was easy. Using it is easy to figure out – until you run into something that is not already set up. And then the non-geek user is stuck. IMHO (Internet geek-speak for in my humble opinion), that is the reason Ubuntu is not ready for the regular user.
You have to know or figure out how to do things that are done for you in Windows or Mac. For example:
- PDF Files: You have to select a PDF viewer. I chose one of two open source offerings. It took three tries to get it to install.
- VIDEO: Instead of the usual video view window I have a multi-tone gray box with a gray arrow inside a circle. When I click the arrow to start play I had to install a player. That process hung Firefox. I tried restarting Firefox – no help. I had to reboot Ubuntu. Repeated tries end in that same “search for codec” message or acting like the video is playing but only a black box in the viewer.
- INSTALLING SOFTWARE: Will it work? How do I install it? Firefox automatically downloaded my favorite keyword research program. It is a .exe file but Firefox doesn’t know what to do with it and neither do I. I just found How to Install ANYTHING in Ubuntu so off I go to figure it out.
- ADDING FEATURES: Ubuntu comes with all kinds of neat “stuff” you can add – IF you can figure out how. You go to System, Administration, Synaptic Package Manager and check what you want to add. That is the easy part. The challenge is figuring out which package you want because the descriptions are unclear to mere mortals. Then if you figure out what to add many of them require manual (non-GUI) set-up. For example, I loaded kweather which “displays your area’s current weather. Information shown includes the temperature, wind speed, air pressure and more. By pressing a button a full weather report can be obtained.” Since I have no idea how to change the location setting it sits in my toolbar with — displayed. When I point at the dashes it says updating. Hmmm….maybe I’ll get it figured out later.
About installing programs Jonathan Schlaffer of Tech.Blorge wrote, “I know plenty of people that think doing so is hard in Windows and for them it would be impossible in Linux.” He’s right. In his excellent post he asks “why can’t I just install an executable or msi file and be done with it? Linux doesn’t work that way which is why it will never be ready for Joe Schmo user…”.
[Corrected Nov. 5, 2008] In his Sep. 14, 2007 post titled Ubuntu Not Ready for Prime Time, Says Walt Mossberg, Jack Schofield, Computer Editor for The Guardian.co.uk, quoted Wall Street Journal’s technology columnist Walt Mossberg. Walt sums up his opinion of Ubuntu this way:
“My verdict: Even in the relatively slick Ubuntu variation, Linux is still too rough around the edges for the vast majority of computer users. While Ubuntu looks a lot like Windows or Mac OS X, it is full of little complications and hassles that will quickly frustrate most people who just want to use their computers, not maintain or tweak them.”
I believe it CAN be made as easy to use as Windows or Mac as soon as the brilliant people who design it accept that it must be really, really GUI simple. Hardy Heron is MUCH easier to use than Feisty Fawn was. The other thing Ubuntu needs is documentation written for non-technical users. I’ll be happy to contribute them – as soon as I can figure it out myself.
If, like me, you’re just NOT going to use Vista and you’re willing to be a leader, read Making the Switch to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron. As soon as I get up to speed I’ll be adding lots of how-to posts and willing to help non-technical users get it working for them.
Please share your insights, comments, and experiences in the comments. Feel free to drop links to related information you find helpful. Periodically I will move those links up into the body of the most appropriate post here for fast and easy reference.
- Are you using Ubuntu? Tell us about it.
- Is there something you just can’t get it to do? Let us know and we’ll research and post the answer.
* I am using Ubuntu 8.04 The Hardy Heron released April 2008. It came preloaded with Firefox version 3.0.1. I welcome comments from Ubuntu developers and users and am interested in offering feedback and writing documentation for non-geeks.
** I know that true geeks do not understand why we non-geeks struggle with all this. Imagine that you don’t know anything about computers, hardware, programming, Linux terminology and jargon – not even what a command line is or how to get to one – nothing at all. Then try having to read the [completely incomprehensible to us] help files and look up every acronym and figure out every instruction.
- Get Organized Using Tomboy Notes
- Using the Wine Windows Emulator to Run Windows Programs on Ubuntu
- Taking a Screen Capture in Ubuntu Using Gimp and Inserting It Into a Blog Post
OFFICIAL UBUNTU REFERENCE RESOURCES:
- Documentation for Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Official Help)
- Adding and Removing Software
- Add/Remove Applications (Similar to Windows Add/Remove)
- Switching From Windows
- Ubuntu Community Provided Documentation
Special thanks to Boo Radley for providing the information that led to the above Official Ubuntu Help links.
BLOGGERS WRITING ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES LEARNING TO USE UBUNTU:
- The Linux Terminal for Beginners from Dave’s Tech Blog – “A very long time ago, computers didn’t have mice, icons or fancy graphics.” Great resource here – go directly to his Ubuntu posts.
- Still Stupid: STumbling in Linux Land – Unlucky Pablo: The tribulations and happy discoveries of a Linux Newbie
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ABOUT UBUNTU:
- Has Ubuntu Lost Its Relevance? (Aug 27, 2008)
- Ubuntu Attracts Lion’s Share at LinuxWorld (Aug 10, 2008)
- I Love Wine Under Ubuntu (Jul 30, 2008) [NOTE: Wine allows Windows programs to run on Ubuntu]
- Six Annoyances in Hardy Heron by Matt Cutts (May 20, 2008)
- Ubuntu Hardy Heron Distro Review (May 15, 2008)
- Ubuntu 8.04 Not Quite There Yet (May 9, 2008)
- What to Say About Hardy Heron (Apr 28, 2008)
- Make the Switch to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron (Apr 27, 2008)
- FOSSWire Hardy Heron Review (Apr 24, 2008)
- Jack Schofield finds Ubuntu “unusably user hostile” (Sep 14, 2007)
- Linux’s New System is Now Easier to Use, But Not For Everyone (Sep 13, 2007)
- Ubuntu Not Ready for Average Users (Sep 12, 2007)
- Ubuntu is Not Ready for Prime Time (Aug 10, 2007)
- Switching to Linux? Look Before You Leap (Jul 9, 2007)
- Confessions of a Linux Fan; Ten Things You Might Want to Know Before Switching Over to Linux (Jul 8, 2007)
- Ubuntu is Not Ready for Most, Even From Dell (May 6, 2007)
ONLINE REFERENCE SOURCES:
- Full Circle – Free online magazine devoted to Ubuntu
- Excellent Ubuntu Reference – direct links to frequently used information including free formats for video and music
HOW TO GET UBUNTU THE MOST PAINLESS WAY:
Buying a PC with Ubuntu already installed on it from someone who really knows Ubuntu is the most logical, pain-free way to get it. The most promising offerings I’ve found so far come from system76. Their systems are preloaded with the software programs you’re most likely to need, saving you the challenges of figuring out which to use and how to install them. There are other companies that offer preloaded Ubuntu hardware internationally.
DISCLAIMER: We are not being compensated in any way by system76 – they don’t even know we exist – yet. We do intend to contact them and will provide additional information in the near future.
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