Skip

"What Is This 'sudo' You Speak Of?"
July 4, 2011 5:53 AM   Subscribe

Self-proclaimed "avid, loyal Windows user" and PC World editor Tony Bradley spent 30 days immersing himself in Ubuntu Linux, and chronicled his experiences as a Linux newbie. His previous project: 30 Days with Google Docs (Via: 1, 2)
posted by zarq (149 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
One of his wrap-up articles discusses his 5 biggest complaints about Ubuntu. And #5 on his list:
Linux Flamers. One of the biggest obstacles to more mainstream acceptance and exposure for Linux is the Linux community itself. I realize it is a vocal minority, and that most of the Linux community at large is helpful, and supportive, and is actually one of the greatest strengths of the platform. But, Linux users who are arrogant, self-righteous, jerks online to newcomers trying to understand how to work with the OS and the culture that goes with it give Linux a bad name.

Many of the flames are on par with the Apple iPhone 4 'antenna-gate' response that users were "holding it wrong". You can't attack the user for simply doing what seems natural or intuitive to them. You can explain how things are done differently on this platform, and/or you can use it as a lesson to develop tools that work the way average users trying to switch to Linux might expect them to.
He also did a list of the 5 things he liked the most about ubuntu.
posted by zarq at 5:59 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


This sort of piece is doomed as a gimmick from the outset, so it's pretty disheartening when the entire first page is waffling about how he won't really be "immersing" himself in anything.
posted by 256 at 6:04 AM on July 4, 2011


One of the biggest obstacles to more mainstream acceptance and exposure for Linux is the Linux community itself.

The price of purity is purists.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [23 favorites]


In the Linux Community's defence - or possibly in Tony Bradley's defence, it's worth quoting from those 5 things he liked most, were he identifies the Linux flamers as a vocal minority:

The other side of that coin is the broader Linux community which is much more welcoming and supportive. Linux seems like a fraternity of sorts, comprised of kindred souls who have been there, done that, and have a firm understanding of the fact that you can do anything in Linux--but it might take some Google searches and a command line tweak or two. They got help from the community as Linux novices, and now they want to pay it forward by sharing their wisdom, and the tips and tricks they have picked up along the way.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:06 AM on July 4, 2011


On the other hand, it is pretty nice to see PCW devoting a page a day to a Linux feature. Plus, I just learned about Ubuntu One thanks to this piece.
posted by 256 at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2011


To be honest, I wouldn't use Linux (even Ubuntu) as a desktop OS if I weren't a programmer. I don't give it to my parents to use, I don't give it to Mrs. Machine to use – it's on my computers alone. I don't think any Linux, even Ubuntu, allows the out-of-the-box polish that typical users want, and I think Ubuntu (although I'm running it with classic Gnome as I type this) goes too far attempting to court a market that does not want its product.

Honestly, if you're not running emacs, Eclipse, and a half-dozen xterms, you're just using "crappy Windows," not Linux.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


It would be better if they could pay it forward by fixing the glitches, gotchas and go-type-this-over-there-incantations rather than simply passing them on as if arcane and annoying were the attributes to be desired. Acolytes serving the priesthood? Not surprising. May as well write (and read) a puff piece on the joys of assembling and running Willys from a surplus sale. Sure, it'll run forever if you can handle a socketwrench and grease gun and know how to adjust the points and and and and, but most people just want to buy groceries and get to work on time.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:14 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


256: "This sort of piece is doomed as a gimmick from the outset, so it's pretty disheartening when the entire first page is waffling about how he won't really be "immersing" himself in anything."

What's interesting about that part is he's not convinced that the software is robust enough to meet his professional needs -- and I think that's a reasonable impression for a Windows user to have based on hearsay about Linux itself.

As you go through the project, you'll see that he's doing a great deal in Ubuntu.
posted by zarq at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2011


256: " Plus, I just learned about Ubuntu One thanks to this piece."

Me too! And I learned there's an Android app, too. Pretty neat.
posted by zarq at 6:17 AM on July 4, 2011


Ubuntu is great for grandmothers who don't want things to pop-up or flash at them or plan on using wireless or external devices beyond a printer, mouse or keyboard. It can be set up to be a very complicated typewriter and question answering machine very easily and cheaply.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:20 AM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


seanmpuckett, these days you don't need a socketwrench and grease gun; it's just that, historically, the software available for Linux has been socketwrenches and grease guns, which people like me need and use constantly. These socketwrenches and grease guns are fantastic, and working with them on Linux is a pleasure compared to Windows.

The problem comes in when you're discussing, say, word processors. OpenOffice does not compare to Word, and you can't exactly recommend LaTeX to your mom. Don't get me wrong, LaTeX is fantastic for what it is, but even LyX is never going to replace Word. Games, too. I actually have a machine running Vista (yuck) just to play games. The media playing and web browsing is there... but the missing pieces are such huge, monolithic projects that I just can't see an open source project prospering.

Maybe Google Docs (or one of its competitors) will reach the point of criticality and make "platform" less important in terms of office software.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:21 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be honest, I wouldn't use Linux (even Ubuntu) as a desktop OS if I weren't a programmer.

I'd say my needs are pretty close to an average office worker's (i.e. email and writing uncomplicated documents) and I really like Ubuntu. I think the main difference is speed. It always feels faster than Windows, especially on older PCs. I daresay if I had software specific stuff to do or wanted to play games, it wouldn't be so great. But as it is, I prefer it to Windows, even Windows 7.
posted by rhymer at 6:26 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm glad to hear it, rhymer. Out of curiosity, though, have you had to use spreadsheets often? This is one area where Linux falls down, in my experience; Gnumeric is robust (mathematically, it's better than Excel), but its interface is unfamiliar and a little strange. OpenOffice Calc tends to crash a lot. There is also no alternative to Access.

It would be better if they could pay it forward by fixing the glitches, gotchas and go-type-this-over-there-incantations rather than simply passing them on as if arcane and annoying were the attributes to be desired.

I just decided to address this, also. Don't ascribe too much ability to the average Linux "fanboy." People who use Linux, sure, on average, have a higher computer IQ, but hacking on the OS itself takes a very high level of ability. Improving OpenOffice or Gnome is far beyond most forum jockeys' limits. The core contributors are a much smaller group than the fandom which surrounds them.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:31 AM on July 4, 2011


From TFA:

I would buy a new PC every two or three years anyway, and that new PC generally comes with the latest version of Windows pre-installed, so it is not as if I am spending extra money to run out and buy Windows itself

Aaaand this is why Linux will never grow beyond single-digit market share: This is an experienced IT journalist, and he's been so well trained to expect Windows he doesn't realise you are still paying for it, even if it's heavily discounted and bundled with the hardware price. You can talk technology, user experience and features all you want, but it really is all about marketing.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:32 AM on July 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


I don't give it to my parents to use, I don't give it to Mrs. Machine to use – it's on my computers alone

When my wife's old XP box died a couple of years ago I bought a $50 late model box on Craigslist and put Ubuntu on it for her. After the initial round of complaints because the menu bar had moved to the top I didn't hear about it again. If your main interest in a computer is web, email, Facebook and some occasional word processing or spreadsheet work, I can't imagine why anybody would inflict Windows and all its overhead on a loved one just for those simple tasks that work as well or better under Linux.

My son lost lost his Windows privileges after the 2nd time that something managed to circumvent the virus scanner on Windows 7. He dual boots now, Ubuntu for anything online, Windows for gaming. And he tells me how much better the online experience is from Ubuntu.
posted by COD at 6:32 AM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


To be honest, I wouldn't use Linux (even Ubuntu) as a desktop OS if I weren't a programmer. I don't give it to my parents to use, I don't give it to Mrs. Machine to use – it's on my computers alone. I don't think any Linux, even Ubuntu, allows the out-of-the-box polish that typical users want, and I think Ubuntu (although I'm running it with classic Gnome as I type this) goes too far attempting to court a market that does not want its product.

Out of curiosity, what does programming on a Linux platform offer that programming on a Windows platform lacks? I don't do either, but my hardcore programmer friend does everything he does on Linux and I'm kind of curious why, because it could just as easily be ideological.
posted by kafziel at 6:34 AM on July 4, 2011


kafziel, it's much easier to automate things in Linux. If you have housekeeping things that need to be done, such as generating mock data for a database, you can write a script to do it with no problem.

Furthermore, the basic setup of the operating system is more robust. In Windows, for example, you have to install many things at the OS level in order for them to work; different versions and multiple installs will break Windows' brain. While programming, it's often important to have multiple versions of certain libraries and programs on your computer for testing purposes, and Linux puts nothing in the way of that.

It's also a lot easier to kill runaway processes in Linux, which is something you need when programming and testing. You can kill a process and there are no side effects, whereas in Windows there's always memory left allocated and such.

Even programming tools are usually designed to work with the Unix paradigm, first and foremost; Eclipse, for example, is cross platform, but I've never had anything but a headache with it on Windows.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the biggest obstacles to more mainstream acceptance and exposure for Linux is the Linux community itself.

The price of purity is purists


Everything these days is about self-identity--from politics to cars to bike lanes to environmental choices, nobody does anything without the underlying motivation being to support a self-image.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:50 AM on July 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


I have trouble running Ubuntu because (in my experience) it's been way worse than Windows at breaking itself, or allowing the user to break it.

-Time before last, I tried to enable fancy window effects only to make all the window borders disappear.
-Somehow when trying to re-arrange the desktop panels, I deleted ALL the desktop panels... meaning I couldn't right-click on a panel to create a new one.
-When living in a dorm requiring VPN to access the Internet, the "Add a VPN" dialog in GNOME was broken, meaning I couldn't get online to download any patches there might have been. Letting bugs like this out on a final release is irresponsible and sloppy. Given all that, GNOME 2 was usable in a Windows 98 sort of way.

I tried Ubuntu with Unity and I really tried to like it. I really did, but it just never felt right to me because it's no longer a desktop OS- it's trying to position itself for tablets, and I can't even imagine how awfully it would run on something with an Atom processor. It's got visual polish, but the underlying mechanics are all broken.

-The menu bar needs to stay in the window or stay on the top, but it shouldn't move back and forth.

-The icon dock shouldn't scroll, the icons should shrink as it fills. Doesn't OS X have nifty pop-out folders that can be used for dock program groups to save space? This should all be based on actual files in a filesystem, by the way- not configuration files.

-The full-screen modal method of finding and launching programs is awful and disruptive, and having to do so by search makes it slow. This is what an "Applications" menu is for.

All this really breaks my heart because running under it all there's this really awesome operating system that should be taking the desktop world by storm, but the people making the desktop part can't agree to make all the parts work together in an integrated manner. It's 2011 and only now is KDE able to integrate with GRUB2 to choose what OS to reboot into?
posted by dunkadunc at 6:52 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Tony, we'd like you to write an article about exploring Ubuntu."

"I really don't think that's-"

"Sudo write an article about exploring Ubuntu."

"OK."
posted by mkultra at 6:55 AM on July 4, 2011 [41 favorites]


Linux Flamers. One of the biggest obstacles to more mainstream acceptance and exposure for Linux is the Linux community itself.

A small portion of the Linux community, as he clarifies in the very next sentence.

OpenOffice does not compare to Word

Speak for yourself. 99% of what I'd use Word for I can just as well use OpenOffice for. And anyway, we should be talking about LibreOffice now; OO is dead in the water. Maybe if you explained how it lacks instead of just stating its lack boldly and expecting people to agree with you? (And for the record, I have never used LaTeX. It's fairly arcane these days even for Linux users.)

It would be better if they could pay it forward by fixing the glitches, gotchas and go-type-this-over-there-incantations rather than simply passing them on as if arcane and annoying were the attributes to be desired.

Well let's be honest here, the great majority of potential users won't be able to do much to help. File bug reports maybe, but even that can be a bit arcane to do on the level developers need.

Aaaand this is why Linux will never grow beyond single-digit market share

"Never" is a long time.

-Time before last, I tried to enable fancy window effects only to make all the window borders disappear.

This, admittedly, can well be a problem. Linux will let you do more if you want. On Windows you're stuck with Windows Explorer for your shell unless you install something that you will probably already know will probably break things, and the same goes for themes other than Aero/Luna/Classic. It's generally easier to get into stuff like Compiz on Linux, in fact it's almost encouraged. (Of course, when Compiz works right it is nice, or is nice to me anyway, and it's never broken for me in a way that I couldn't easily recover from. YMMV.)

I think I can agree about Unity too. In principle it should be OS/X's dock on its end, but the fact that the icons don't shrink when you have a lot of them makes it worse than it should be. When it's fixed it might be good, but in the meantime it feels like it's been pushed on desktop users too soon. At least in the current version it's possible to switch back to the previous desktop style; I hear that's going away in 11.10, I hope the kinks are ironed out before then.
posted by JHarris at 7:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's this "OpenOffice doesn't compare to word" idea?

How many people who claim this actually use word processors for hours a day? I work almost exclusively with spreadsheets and a word processor. I have always had a copy of MS Office installed (to use Access), but I always use OO Writer and OO Calc - because both are better. OO Calc is a dream to work with compared to excel - simple, clean, cut & paste (which I need to use a lot) works normally instead of in that weird Excel way. Graphing is lovely. OO Writer is similarly good - clean, professional interface, no harassing cartoons, page layout formatting is right there where you expect it under "formatting", paragraph styles are super easy to use.

And OO reads docx and other new MS office files - which MS Office 2000 can't do. I have actually had to convert MS Office docx - via OpenOffice - for another MS Office user.

So yes, OO doesn't compare to MS Word or Excel - because it's better.
posted by jb at 7:06 AM on July 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Yeah - OO needs a good database front-end thing - would be awesome if it just made relationships and allowed querying, while still allowing editing via OO Calc. But for spreadsheets and word-processing, OO has it hands down on MSOffice - before we even get to the free part.

if your complaint is the lack of word count, that was fixed a decade or so ago.
posted by jb at 7:12 AM on July 4, 2011


LO's (heh) word processor is passable, very comparable to Word 2000 or so. However, I would dispute that Calc is a good replacement for Excel. Gnumeric is better mathematically, as it corrects many errors that Excel still commits, but neither Calc or Gnumeric really allows the interactive pivot tables, seamless sorting and filtering, and macros that Excel does. In my experience, these aspects make up the most useful applications of Excel. If your organization does not use them, then Calc/Gnumeric will probably be a fine replacement.

LO's database offering is a joke (and that comes from someone who dislikes Access).
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:19 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't attack the user for simply doing what seems natural or intuitive to them. You can explain how things are done differently on this platform, and/or you can use it as a lesson to develop tools that work the way average users trying to switch to Linux might expect them to.

I write some scientific software, and every time I get a question on the mailing list it is an opportunity either to fix a bug or update the docs. Would that other people took this perspective.
posted by grouse at 7:21 AM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Another thing--

The first thing on the list of things he likes about Ubuntu is the Software Center, which he compares to the Mac App Store.

Of course Linux distributions have had something like that for far longer than even iOS; the Software Center is just a dressed up, simplified version of the software repository clients that have been in Linux for many years. But there is one thing in which Ubuntu's Software Center far outstrips Apple's App Stores. That is the fact that the Mac software community never progressed out of the shareware-style software distribution model that most reputable Windows software escaped back in the 90s, and that attitude has spread to iOS. Perhaps oddly, there is far more good free (both as in beer and speech) software for Windows machines than Macs.

Well okay, that's not the case if you count stuff like command-line tools or low-level system stuff, after all technically OS/X runs on BSD, but for applications a lot more stuff you get on Mac will ding you for a few bucks. On iOS, almost all worthwhile software is for-pay; for most cases, if it's free, it's a demo, crippleware, or hosts obnoxious ads. Ad-ware on Windows is rightly derided, while I have heard Apple supplies an official ad-delivery framework for iOS software!

Apple encourages for-profit software by charging a yearly gatekeeper fee on access to the only non-hacky way of distributing iOS software (which makes their proclaiming no-cost software is possible for iOS disingenuous, someone always pays, either the user or the developer), and now the App Store has come to Macs I don't look forward to the possibility of their attempting to make it a sole outlet for software on that platform.
posted by JHarris at 7:21 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I switched to linux mint a year or so ago after I lost my windows security code :-(
easy install off a usb drive every thing worked first thing no drivers to install or anything
The one thing I have problems with is installing software sometimes
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 7:25 AM on July 4, 2011


OO has gotten steadily better over the years. I think one could make the case that OO lacks the 'fit and polish' of MS Office, but in terms of features and ease of use I'd say they're pretty identical.

There are many offices who have built business workflows out of VB for Applications and Excel - and this is something that probably isn't easily reproducible in OO.

OO has that "Draw" app which is super handy for diagrams and flow charts. I've made extensive wireframes in it (and every app saves right to PDF so computability isn't much of an issue)

I hadn't been keeping up lately though, and Libre Office is new to me...so I'm trying it now.

I learned a thing today!
posted by device55 at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2011


He's trying Libre Office? I don't think he's suffered enough; someone should have forced him to use LaTeX! My first thought when he was complaining that grep wasn't working on his .docx files was "mmm, I never have that problem with my .tex files."

I recently introduced my wife to LyX, thinking it would be a gateway to LaTeX (we collaborate on research together, and Word is horrible for equations) but she spent 2 hours on it and was tearing her hair out in frustration. So when Bradley said he was going to keep using word for writing during the 30 days, I understood why...

(Also: Ubuntu Software Center? Back in my day, we lived in dependency hell 24/7, and we liked it. Kids these days don't appreciate how easy they have it with their "software centers".)

posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:27 AM on July 4, 2011


now the App Store has come to Macs I don't look forward to the possibility of their attempting to make it a sole outlet for software on that platform.

They won't be doing this.
posted by hippybear at 7:29 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Now that Oracle has finally disgusted the community enough to make a clean break with them, work on LibreOffice has accelerated significantly. A lot of OO's lacks seem to have at their source Sun's lackadaisical approach to it, but I guess it wasn't bad enough to get it outright forked. Now, it's forked, Oracle has thrown in the towel, and things seem to be moving, at last.
posted by JHarris at 7:30 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


They won't be doing this.

Everything about their marketing strategy for the past several years suggests that yes, they will. Might not be in 10.8, but it's coming. Final Cut was an App Store exclusive, remember?
posted by kafziel at 7:31 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps oddly, there is far more good free (both as in beer and speech) software for Windows machines than Macs.

I'd dispute this point unless you're counting the endless stream of beta/incomplete/so-buggy-it's-unusable software out there for Windows. Which is still also a crippling problem, IMO, in the Linux world an points up one major advantage the Apple App Store brings- you know that what you're getting works. Apple won't accept software that isn't done and tested into the App Store.

Mailing lists with engaged developers are great for those of us who have the patience, desire, and/or curiosity to work through a lot of issues, but the vast majority of people out there just want their stuff to work.
posted by mkultra at 7:36 AM on July 4, 2011


I no longer write code, that was decades ago. Theoretically, I should be the perfect MAC or Windows customer, but I tried Ubuntu when one of my Windows boxes got rooted and I had difficulty restoring it from the so-called back-up partition. The Ubuntu was supposed to be a temporary fix until I could obtain the XP pro back-up CD. I never bothered with that CD. I fell in love quickly with Ubuntu, expanded its partition and never looked back. So long Microsoft. I can't stream Netflix, or use Turbotax, and few other things, but I have other boxes for that. Ubuntu rocks. I am now in the marketplace for a replacement laptop which I would prefer to be Ubuntu only but it seems I will be forced to either get a used which has been wiped or pay for a copy of Windows 7 on a new one, the Linux only options are limited and not particularly cheap. If I am missing something here though I would be grateful for suggestions. Anyway, I love Linux. Would I give it to an aging parent? In a heartbeat. They don't stream movies, do their taxes online or any of the other things one might miss with Linux over a commercial operating system and Ubuntu is bulletproof, easy to use and free.
posted by caddis at 7:36 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Apple won't accept software that isn't done and tested into the App Store.

This is wishful thinking. I see buggy, crashy, broken apps in the iOS App Store every day. And those apps tend to be much simpler and more limited in scope than Mac apps. Do you have any idea how many man-hours it would take Apple to do good QA on every Mac app in the world? There is just no way they will be able to do anything but the most cursory testing.
posted by enn at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The most recent version of Calc does have sorting and filtering like Excel; that said, I've been using regular sort heavily for about 8 years, and never really missed a filter - and I've been using Calc to construct simple one-table databases, or to prepare all of the tables for relational databases.
posted by jb at 7:45 AM on July 4, 2011


Everything about their marketing strategy for the past several years suggests that yes, they will. Might not be in 10.8, but it's coming. Final Cut was an App Store exclusive, remember?

No, they won't. They can make it the exclusive distribution means for Apple products, but they won't be making the App Store the only way to purchase and install software on MacOS. Companies will remain able to sell their software for download through their own website, or via physical media, entirely bypassing the Mac App Store.
posted by hippybear at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see buggy, crashy, broken apps in the iOS App Store every day.

That's true, there is some garbage there, but it tends to get quickly "flagged" via one-star user ratings and comments. The basic idea that you know what you're downloading still holds.
posted by mkultra at 7:46 AM on July 4, 2011


No, they won't. They can make it the exclusive distribution means for Apple products, but they won't be making the App Store the only way to purchase and install software on MacOS. Companies will remain able to sell their software for download through their own website, or via physical media, entirely bypassing the Mac App Store.

Why do you think this?
posted by kafziel at 7:49 AM on July 4, 2011


I'd dispute this point unless you're counting the endless stream of beta/incomplete/so-buggy-it's-unusable software out there for Windows.

enn is correct; from what I've seen of the App Store, inclusion is absolutely no guarantee of quality, except you frequently have to pay money to discover how sucky it is, either that or hope the often-YouTube-level comments left on the entry in the Store are an accurate description.

And it's not that there isn't a ton of sucky Windows software, or Windows shareware or adware for that matter. It's that the good free stuff is able to rise to the top and become seen, so it doesn't matter how much crappy stuff is there. Meanwhile on iOS I have only found one good multi-platform blogging client, it costs $5, and even it has a weird workflow and substantial drawbacks which of course were not mentioned in its app description. One good client, out of a field of over 500,000 apps! My mind boggles.
posted by JHarris at 7:52 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am now in the marketplace for a replacement laptop which I would prefer to be Ubuntu only but it seems I will be forced to either get a used which has been wiped or pay for a copy of Windows 7 on a new one, the Linux only options are limited and not particularly cheap. If I am missing something here though I would be grateful for suggestions.

I can't speak to their current level of quality, but HP offers laptops for sale without Windows. Configure the laptop, select FreeDOS or SUSE (on some models), and save $100.
posted by cmonkey at 7:53 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Day 1: "Where's the start menu?"
posted by Fizz at 7:56 AM on July 4, 2011


I've been trying Ubuntu ever release for quite a few years. They've finally got it to the point where I don't have to troubleshoot any driver issues. I just need to make the mental leap and change half-a-dozen apps that I use regularly.

Strangely enough, iOS 5 might be what makes it possible for me to switch if I can cut the cord. Unfortunately I'll have to continue my Windows Dev projects in a VM.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:57 AM on July 4, 2011


kafziel, OS X is Unix-based. It's going to be really hard to make it impossible to install software from the Internet. iOS allows Apple to control all channels of access to the machine; OS X does not.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:58 AM on July 4, 2011


I would much like to believe that Apple won't push the Mac platform to be App Store only. However sonic meat machine, I need to remind you that iOS, too, is Unix-based.
posted by JHarris at 8:02 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do you think this?

Because Steve Jobs said specifically that he would not be doing this during the keynote in which he announced the Mac App Store. I can't find the speech online, but you can see that it is mentioned in this article, and in this one.

Why are you so convinced of the opposite?
posted by hippybear at 8:04 AM on July 4, 2011


Why do you think this?

- Apple has stated as much (not that they couldn't change their mind of course)
- Major software suites, Office and Adobe's suite, cannot in their current forms work as App Store apps (Adobe has a middleware runtime based upon Air) and Apple can't simply remove two of the big reasons people use a Mac
- Apple needs a general purpose computing platform as much as their customers do. Do you think Apple would develop iOS on Windows or Linux?
posted by device55 at 8:05 AM on July 4, 2011


Hell, so's Android, and if you don't check the settings option to install non-Market applications, you can't install non-Market applications. Google isn't Apple, so that settings option is there, but Apple is very insistent that having the ability degrades the user experience, and the user experience is king. As soon as they think they can get away with it, Macs will lose that option too.
posted by kafziel at 8:05 AM on July 4, 2011


Linux desktops really only have one problem: you can do ~80% of what you'd do in Windows but once you need something in that 20% it stops you dead in your tracks.

OOooOo.org or whatever we're calling it today is a great example. If you've never used Excel Calc is fine. If you've used Excel for simple stuff Calc is fine. If you've used Pivot tables you already know Calc isn't fine and you don't even start.

The problem arises when you start out a beginner but someone says "Pivot tables are the way to solve this" or sends you a sheet with them. Then you're just stuck, there's no obvious way to go from where you are to a state where you can do what you need to do. You're back to Windows and I can't blame you.

I think this is made utterly obvious by Android's success: Android is obviously inspired by iOS but it's certainly not attempting to be a clone. People are far more willing to accept wildly different interfaces and capabilities in their phones and so Linux doesn't suffer the eternal catchup curse it does on the desktop.
posted by Skorgu at 8:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was using Ubuntu at home as an impromptu file-server because my Windows machine takes forever starting up if my Drobo is plugged into it. Unfortunately, permissions were difficult to figure out and then after a reboot one day Ubuntu didn't want to mount any drives plugged in to USB. So now my Drobo is back on my Windows machine and I just wait forever now every time I start it up.

It's kind of sad that I'm putting up with this even though I do IT for a living, but it's not enough of an inconvenience to rebuild the computer and I've tried all the easy fixes so...
posted by ODiV at 8:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


iOS is baked into the hardware, though; its interface with the world is a touch screen that the OS itself generates. It's easy to control because its interaction with the world is narrow. I think it'll be a lot harder to prevent a computer with a keyboard and ethernet connection from downloading software from Elsewhere.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:06 AM on July 4, 2011


To be honest, I wouldn't use Linux (even Ubuntu) as a desktop OS if I weren't a programmer.

I use OSX and Linux, and have found that the stereotypical Linux-for-left-brain-stuff, Mac-for-right-brain-stuff division has been neatly reversed. I typically use my Mac for coding (Xcode for iOS development, and TextMate for web apps and such), and use the Linux box for graphic work (The GIMP and Inkscape are free, and reasonably powerful for image and vector work).
posted by acb at 8:09 AM on July 4, 2011


I switched to Unbuntu from Windows a couple months ago and I love it. The biggest Pro is just how much faster it is. It takes less than 10 seconds to get up and running where as Windows is around a minutes to see a desktop and another 2 minutes while it does god-knows-what in the background.

It takes 3 or 4 times longer to shut down windows than it does to start Ubuntu.

As for negatives, there is no software that works with my Clix mp3 player but WineHQ says that I could run WMP if I really wanted to so even that is more of a problem I just haven't fixed yet.
posted by Bonzai at 8:10 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, here I am... the trisexual of the computer world.

Initially, I was the perverted bisexual in possession of a PC and a Mac running OS 9.1.1, then Slackware came out, and I have since progressed to Ubuntu. So, here I sit, with three partitions on my SSD, all offering many different benefits and choices in my computing experience; all of which I take pleasure in using at different times.

I fire up, the computer goes into Post, and asks me "What are you in the mood for today?" (not in so many words, though), and right now I'm in the Ubuntu/Firefox mood. Tomorrow, maybe Win 7, and who knows, I may mess around with Mac OSX a little later.

I'm allowed to.

I guess I'm not sure why it turns into this "all or nothing", "sharks vs. the jets" conversation, when... really, the beauty of today's offering allows us to switch between our operating systems with our moods.

[And I don't mean to offend those who are of a sexual predilection that puts them at odds with society. I'll acknowledge, it was a weak metaphor, but you would not believe the abuse I'm subjected to when I invite one of my fellow IT folk over to the house, they see the potential in my Phenom II 6-core OC (up to 3.9ghz), and they nearly vomit on my keyboard when the OS choice come up on the screen.

You would think I smeared my feces on the monitor, or something.]
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because Steve Jobs said specifically that he would not be doing this during the keynote in which he announced the Mac App Store.

I'm sure Steve Jobs has lied at some point about Apple's plans in the past, and wouldn't hesitate before doing so in the future, if it helps the bottom line.

For the record, I don't think that Mac software distribution will go App Store only in the near future, but the middle or far future, who knows. And the problem isn't whether you can download programs onto your system; you can already use many apps to get whatever arbitrary files you want onto an iThing's honest-it's-not-a-filesystem. The problem is installing that software into a file image that the iOS shell will accept and run, and coaxing it into running it. You're beholden to Apple's software to do that, and it's not so hard to just prevent it from happening.
posted by JHarris at 8:15 AM on July 4, 2011


How many people who claim this actually use word processors for hours a day? I work almost exclusively with spreadsheets and a word processor. I have always had a copy of MS Office installed (to use Access), but I always use OO Writer and OO Calc - because both are better. OO Calc is a dream to work with compared to excel - simple, clean, cut & paste (which I need to use a lot) works normally instead of in that weird Excel way. Graphing is lovely. OO Writer is similarly good - clean, professional interface, no harassing cartoons, page layout formatting is right there where you expect it under "formatting", paragraph styles are super easy to use.

I used Ubuntu exclusively for 3 years. I mostly enjoyed it very much--it was fast and intuitive and only seemed to be becoming more so.

But I switched back to Windows for two reasons: I got a job where I had to use Internet Explorer daily, and dual booting/Virtual Boxing was a slow pain in the ass. And I realized how strongly I, as a professional writer--who sits in my word processor 4-8 hours a day--prefers MS Word 2007/2010. Some of these are fairly small cosmetic issues. The background gradient is simply easier on the eyes than what you find with Writer. But I also find the formatting intuitive and easy. I know that I'm in the minority on that one, but after a few weeks of using Word, the ribbon et al struck me as both inoffensive and functional. And frankly, there haven't been any harassing cartoons on Word for years.

"Clean" is subjective.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:18 AM on July 4, 2011


I don't think any Linux, even Ubuntu, allows the out-of-the-box polish that typical users want, and I think Ubuntu (although I'm running it with classic Gnome as I type this) goes too far attempting to court a market that does not want its product.
Actually I've been playing around in Ubuntu lately and I have to say I was shocked at how smooth Ubuntu unity actually. It's actually gorgeous and kind of fun to use. In fact, when I do get frustrated it's because something has been 'hidden away' somewhere and I can't figure out how to interact with the desktop from the shell. Like I found myself wanting to write a script to change rotate the background image and looking into it there wasn't a simple 'change-background' command, you had to do some arcane database calls. They apparently don't even let you right click on something to get a shortcut path, if you want to find out what underlying command goes with what icons.

For general web surfing, I'd have no problems giving this to my mom. She barely knows how to use windows in the first place, and all she needs is a web browser and a word processor

---
kafziel, it's much easier to automate things in Linux. If you have housekeeping things that need to be done, such as generating mock data for a database, you can write a script to do it with no problem.
Eh. My main desktop is still windows, and I've always used it for programming. It works fine. Maybe if I was doing C/C++ Linux would be a better choice, but for Java, windows works great. I do have Cygwin installed, but that's just for wc. Some of the other stuff you mentioned, it sounds like you're not that familiar with windows. You can script it just as easily using a .bat file, and there are also newer ways to script windows using whatever scripting language you like. As far as killing processes, that's really easy to using task manager. I've never noticed any memory leaks.

I use eclipse and I've never had a problem with it.
I would much like to believe that Apple won't push the Mac platform to be App Store only. However sonic meat machine, I need to remind you that iOS, too, is Unix-based.
In fact, it's actually running OSX. Unix isn't 'open' unless you're root. And on iOS devices, you're not.
So now my Drobo is back on my Windows machine and I just wait forever now every time I start it up.
Why not just unplug it when you start up, then plug it in after it's finished booting?
posted by delmoi at 8:25 AM on July 4, 2011


I was a big fan of ubuntu right up until the new versions stopped supporting my obsolete video card on my way too old laptop. Now the old versions are out of date security wise and the new versions are not usuable.

This support of obsolete hardware was one of the selling points for me...but ubuntu isn't distro you want for that so if you want to keep up you have to spend far too much time yak shaving.

Out of curiosity, what does programming on a Linux platform offer that programming on a Windows platform lacks? I don't do either, but my hardcore programmer friend does everything he does on Linux and I'm kind of curious why, because it could just as easily be ideological.

I can't even list the microsoft developer technologies off the top of my head anymore and I do this for a living. They have so many asinine new platforms every month that I gave up and just tune them out. Every one these is supposed to have been the permanent replacement for the previous one. After a while you realize that Microsoft is the Bernie Madoff of software development and you are climbing up an ever growing pyramid of platform promises. You will never reach the top and the bottom may fall out from under you at any second.
posted by srboisvert at 8:27 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Commentary about linux users isn't horribly helpful.

Communication is a two way street, and his interactions with that community don't necessarily mirror mine. What's more, his description of the community could be slapped onto any community.

"One of the biggest obstacles to more mainstream acceptance and exposure for _____ is the _____ community itself. I realize it is a vocal minority, and that most of the _____community at large is helpful, and supportive, and is actually one of the greatest strengths of the platform. But, _____ users who are arrogant, self-righteous, jerks online to newcomers trying to understand how to work with _____ and the culture that goes with it give _____ a bad name."
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:37 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wubi is a brilliant way to get a 'free look' at an actual Ubuntu install.
posted by geekyguy at 8:38 AM on July 4, 2011


caddis, ZaReason and System76 both sell computers with Ubuntu preinstalled.
posted by nangar at 8:39 AM on July 4, 2011




I use Open Office at home on my Ubuntu laptop, and the latest version of Microsoft Word under the latest version of Mac OSX at work. I share documents across the two platforms, and do extensive editing with my colleagues using edit tracking and notations. And that is where OO falls down. I cannot reliably carry formatting from one platform to the other. Tracking changes is a frustrating process. These are vital functions, and it's a pain in the ass when they don't work the way they're supposed to. I get that I'm working on a different OS and in different software, but I'd like the program to do what I want.

Based on the comments here, though, I will be shifting to Libre to see if it's any better.

I'm running an older Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop. Ubuntu has salvaged it and made it a pleasure to work on -- I would have thrown it away and upgraded long ago, because XP was an ugly, clunky, time-sucking beast of an OS and the hardware in this thing isn't supported by either Vista or Win7.
posted by zarq at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There should be a script of some sort called "Mimic Windows", and it should be offered on install as an option for Windows users switching to Linux. The script should automatically adjust every setting possible to make Ubuntu Linux as close to Windows in look, feel, and behavior as possible without the novice Linux user having to go find all of the settings and tweak it on their own.

I had to stop reading at that point.

geekyguy: the author of the piece used Wubi.
posted by sophist at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been using Ubuntu and Debian since 2006 because I believe in open source software. I want linux to be ready for prime time, but even I have to admit that Ubuntu and the other distros I've tried need a lot more work before they are ready for serious end-users. I wish linux wasn't Too Much Trouble.

I used to be a huge defender of Open Office because I never did anything but routine typing, so even google docs was just as good. It was only when I needed to use OO for more advanced features, but I needed to do database work and found out that OO's database file format is fundamentally corrupt and I ended up with an unusable database and no solution.

I tried to use OO to make business cards. Literally every step was broken, beginning with the Avery templates being wrong, breaking the layout of downloaded templates, breaking the layout between windows and linux, and even setting grey to be white so that it was impossible to have blank space, because blank and white space was considered gray and would print out as such. I tried LibreOffice and it was just as broken.

Last month I installed Debian because once upon a time it was the most stable and polished distro. I found out that there was a recurring bug that broke flash every month. I was incredulous as I read the bug reports and workarounds.

Don't get me wrong, Ubuntu is perfectly usable as long as you never ever ever update ever because over my 5 years of using OSS I've discovered that updating is just as likely to break something as it is to fix something. The most memorable was when updating from 7.04 to 7.10 my sound stopped working.

I put up with this stupid bullshit because a) I have the knowledge to troubleshoot and deal with this and b) I use open source software like an animal rights activist is a vegetarian, for ideological reasons. There is really no reason for a regular end user to be using linux right now. It's sad to say.
posted by fuq at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've used OO for more than 5 years now, and I love it. It does have some quirks but you can't find a better price/performance ratio. In fact, the only thing that really bugs me in OO is that you can't right click and merge cells in Calc - you have to go to the menu. Pretty small nitpick, though.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:47 AM on July 4, 2011


Eh. My main desktop is still windows, and I've always used it for programming. It works fine. Maybe if I was doing C/C++ Linux would be a better choice, but for Java, windows works great. I do have Cygwin installed, but that's just for wc. Some of the other stuff you mentioned, it sounds like you're not that familiar with windows. You can script it just as easily using a .bat file, and there are also newer ways to script windows using whatever scripting language you like. As far as killing processes, that's really easy to using task manager. I've never noticed any memory leaks.

I'm pretty familiar with Windows. Wrote my first batch file in '92 or so. I've written a couple of PowerShell scripts, too; they're a nice step forward for the platform. However, batch files are not as capable as Linux shell scripts, and scripting languages like Python and Perl don't integrate as well with Windows as they do with Linux. Task manager is great, except when it's not, and killing one process mysteriously crashes Explorer or something similar.

I write the languages I write (Java and Python, mostly) in Linux because of these problems and, as I noted, because of tool support. I like Mercurial and git, and while TortoiseHg is really nice on windows, the git integration isn't nearly as good. I also like to be able to maintain my development environment as it will be on a server, and configuring apache/postgres/jboss/pylons/whatever is really great on Linux and really miserable on Windows.

I particularly like using virtualenv for my Python development, and dealing with it in Windows is just a pain.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:47 AM on July 4, 2011


sonic meat machine: "To be honest, I wouldn't use Linux (even Ubuntu) as a desktop OS if I weren't a programmer. I don't give it to my parents to use, I don't give it to Mrs. Machine to use – it's on my computers alone. I don't think any Linux, even Ubuntu, allows the out-of-the-box polish that typical users want, and I think Ubuntu (although I'm running it with classic Gnome as I type this) goes too far attempting to court a market that does not want its product.

Honestly, if you're not running emacs, Eclipse, and a half-dozen xterms, you're just using "crappy Windows," not Linux.
"

1) Old people don't need much more than email and youtube. Ubuntu provides that out of the box. Installing programs using the software repo (don't know ubuntus GUI for it these days) is super easy. Much easier than downloading some file from some site, then finding it on the desktop and installing it and leaving the install package there along with the app icon (and hence CLUTTERING the desktop cuz we know how older folks never delete the icons -- not ageist, more an observation of non-techy people).

2) Installing software? Well, to install something and leave it on the desktop is one thing, but then knowing that there's always a chance of malware ("Hey! Can't play this video? Download this codec, then you can!") or even drive-by downloading... It's one more layer of security that even Win7 probably doesn't and can't provide. Not just because of the security of Linux in general, but again that "high user base as a target" thing that Windows has.

3) Most people install windows with one giant partition (I know I'm guilty of it) so all the data is lost if you DO have to reinstall windows(and really is mom and pop really doing backups?) whereas in linux, you kinda create the separate partitions on setup so you can keep all your data if you ever do need to install/upgrade.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but I wouldn't call it "crappy windows" I'd call it "better windows" (though Win7 has a nicer interface and is more secure, but again, not as secure as Ubuntu).

My thoughts are : if you aren't playing video games or doing photoshop (and probably video editing?) then you don't really need Windows.

Note: I use XP. Not because I don't like Ubuntu. I really do like it. But I'm a gamer, which means I need Windows.

Oh... What do you mean "out of the box polish"? I haven't had any issues w/Ubuntu in terms of polish. Everything just works in Ubuntu, certainly the last few times. Granted, they keep updating and changing things, so that can be frustrating, but I don't understand "lack of polish" if anything it was certainly more polished than XP. Then MS released 7 and upped their level of polish. I dunno. I think Ubuntu is really great for a basic email/web-surfing/basic documents OS for computer newbs. Add in that extra layer of security and you got it made.
posted by symbioid at 8:48 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


AndrewKemendo: "Ubuntu is great for grandmothers who don't want things to pop-up or flash at them or plan on using wireless or external devices beyond a printer, mouse or keyboard. It can be set up to be a very complicated typewriter and question answering machine very easily and cheaply."

Are you talking Ubuntu or iPad?
posted by symbioid at 8:49 AM on July 4, 2011


Oh... What do you mean "out of the box polish"? I haven't had any issues w/Ubuntu in terms of polish. Everything just works in Ubuntu, certainly the last few times. Granted, they keep updating and changing things, so that can be frustrating, but I don't understand "lack of polish" if anything it was certainly more polished than XP. Then MS released 7 and upped their level of polish. I dunno. I think Ubuntu is really great for a basic email/web-surfing/basic documents OS for computer newbs. Add in that extra layer of security and you got it made.

Well, as an example, take my current laptop. It's a castoff from Mrs. Machine, a Sony Vaio. (Not my choice, but free is free.) Due to an issue with drivers, the screen flickers about once an hour. Not Ubuntu's fault, but still an issue of fit and finish. The webcam also doesn't work. I don't care, but – polish.

I've also had a spotty history with printing. As far as I can tell, CUPS is a demon designed by the devil, directed at me, and sent winging its dark way in 1997.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:57 AM on July 4, 2011


sonic meat machine: "The webcam also doesn't work. I don't care, but – polish."

Out of curiosity, is it a logitech webcam? I can get mine to work, but its built-in microphone doesn't.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on July 4, 2011


In my experience, people hold Linux to a *much* higher standard than they do Windows.

Windows doesn't come with drivers for all your hardware? That's "just how it is" and it's not a big deal.

Linux distro doesn't come with instant, out-of-the-box hardware configuration for something? Linux is not ready for the desktop!

Windows has a bug or a UI quirk? Bugs happen.

A Linux desktop environment has a UI quirk? It lacks polish!

Windows requires a reboot for updates? Mildly annoying, but that's just because they have to keep us safe from malware.

Linux distro updates regularly, seldom requiring a reboot? Enough already! This is a horrible user experience!

And that's before you get to the whole "different UI == worse" assumption that many people have. Many tasks are equally complex under both OSs, but plenty of folks confuse a lack of familiarity with difficulty.
posted by -1 at 9:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]


zarq, it's integrated into the laptop, which is a Sony; so I assume it's a Sony webcam.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:06 AM on July 4, 2011


As far as I can tell, CUPS is a demon designed by the devil, directed at me, and sent winging its dark way in 1997.

CUPS is a cuddly teddy bear compared to whatever the fuck PulseJackOLSSA audio thing we are supposed to be using these days. 2011 and I cannot having two fucking programs playing sound at the same fucking time.
posted by enn at 9:07 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Like the one-button mouse myth, the Mac App Store scare tactics need to die a painful death.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:07 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


One button mouse myth?
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:11 AM on July 4, 2011


srboisvert:
Every one these is supposed to have been the permanent replacement for the previous one. After a while you realize that Microsoft is the Bernie Madoff of software development and you are climbing up an ever growing pyramid of platform promises.
This, a thousand times over. I use OO exclusively not because it is better, but because they don't keep obsoleting the goddamn file formats and it will export .PDF without using a fake printer driver hack.

I am stuck with Windows because of several Windows-only industry apps I have to use and boatload of legacy VB software that we started writing when VB was pretty much the only RAD technology available for windowed software development. When .NET came along I refused to move since VB6 still works and does just about everything we need. Now the .NET boys are starting to worry that Microsoft is going to throw them under the bus too, and with good cause. Once the legacy stuff is retired I will never use another Microsoft product.
posted by localroger at 9:17 AM on July 4, 2011



One button mouse myth?

Back in the day, macs only had and could use one mouse button. It was a source of many flamewars. Then The Jobs decided he would ship macs with multibutton mice.

But the second button is still not enabled by default to this day (well, more accurately, it is enabled and mapped to the same function as the first button, but yeah you still have to choose to make right click do right click).
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:18 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just did a clean install of Snow Leopard, and my right-button is replicating the function of ctrl-click. I'm pretty sure this has been standard behavior since ... Tiger, at least? Mac laptops still had one button, but they understood right click on a separate pointing device to be a shortcut for ctrl-click.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Linux sound system is a fucking mess. And it's one of the main reasons why I can't switch to linux and abandon Windows.

Windows may blow fetid goat corpses, but at least I can run Ableton Live, Traktor, Audacity and a couple of instances of Winamp and maybe even a couple of VST modules all at the same time, and I can do it on a 1 ghz econobox with a 15 dollar multi-channel sound card and a gig of ram and it'll just work.

The failure of a decent audio subsystem on linux is astoundingly bad. I don't know why or how it got fucked up so badly, but considering you can literally treat any resource like a file in Linux, UNIX or any truly POSIX compliant OS with Standard I/O and you can do cool shit like catting weird things to /dev/audo, you'd think that Linux would be able to handle sound very easily. If you tried "catting weird things to /dev/audio" in windows I bet it would choke.

And if I recall correctly, isn't Ableton Live running in it's own Linux or *nix virtual machine inside of windows or OS X, anyway?

What gives, linux wizards and neckbeards? Why do you guys hate audio? Why can't I use a F/OSS program for DJing like MIXX and not have it suck?
posted by loquacious at 9:24 AM on July 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was all excited about installing Ubuntu on my Win 7 netbook a couple of months ago, but there was some bug in version 10(?) where wifi didn't work. Trying to troubleshoot that without the internet meant using my phone (fiddly, annoying to type and search and read and type and search and read...), or booting Win7, trying to find what to change, and then trying to remember that while I booted Ubuntu again. After a couple of days I gave up and I'm not sure I will ever bother trying again. It may be great for web browsing and watching Youtube, but only if you can connect to the internet...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:27 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, macs only had and could use one mouse button.

You have to go back to 1998 for that. Replace the hockey-puck mouse that came with the original iMacs with a two-button USB mouse, and right-clicking worked just like Ctrl-clicking.

Macs have been able to use two-button mice for just under half of the lifespan of the brand. Complaints about Macs not working well with multi-button mice are about as relevant as complaints about MultiFinder being unstable.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:27 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


loquacious: "And if I recall correctly, isn't Ableton Live running in it's own Linux or *nix virtual machine inside of windows or OS X, anyway?"

Tell me more! Google isn't bringing anything up.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2011


SERIOUSLY! Is there ANYONE who has been able to get JACK running properly? I have never heard of anyone being able to get JACK to work outside of purely hypothetical neckbeards who have devoted their lives to making JACK work and they still can't get it to actually play audio.
posted by fuq at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Right, the OS has had mutli-button mouse support for a while. But that doesn't change the fact the Steve Jobs hates buttons only slightly more than he hates developers. I knew plenty of Mac users who the first thing they did was buy a new mouse. It doesn't change the fact that they had to buy a new mouse because Apple wouldn't ship a multi-button mouse.
Personally if it has less than 5 buttons, I don't want it.
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got JACK working once. On Gentoo which should tell you all you need to know to extrapolate the rest of the story.

Sound has always been a problem, especially with laptops where manufacturers feel fine assigning the same board ID to seven different, incompatible hardware layouts. I'm looking at you Dell.

Once you figure out the magic modprobe incantation to get it to play sound at all I've always found Pulse to Just Work on new installs. Upgrades where it has to do an alsa -> pulse dance are probably not quite as seamless. As usual it's both entirely accurate and totally unhelpful to say "But the hardware is stupid!" here.
posted by Skorgu at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2011


I've used Ubuntu for almost three years now, and this problems with the menu stuff I've read above, and the bit about not doing the 20 percent that Windows can (What? Use MS Starlight so you can watch NBC sports programming that you can get for free via an antenna? And I watch Netflix movies via a Roku box, which runs via Linux, ironically given Netflix's lack of instant viewing usability on Linux.) are bizarre to me. Maybe the problems are coming from using a partition, dual booting or whatever?
posted by raysmj at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2011


So, in a largely doomed attempt to stay vaguely on-topic, has anyone had trouble with mice under Ubuntu? I have a 7-button mouse, but rarely use more than three of them, but I can see that if you're e.g. used to moving forwards and backwards between web pages using buttons 4 and 5 not being able to do that could be a problem...
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:44 AM on July 4, 2011


I spoke with some of the developers at Ableton once, and nothing quite as bizarre as it running a Linux VM emerged. (Furthermore, it sounds unlikely, given that it has to interact with Windows/OSX-native plug-ins.) I do recall hearing that it apparently contains a Python interpreter, which is used for some internal purposes and not exposed to the user.
posted by acb at 9:48 AM on July 4, 2011


I've used Ubuntu to rescue the data on Windows machines many times. It typically goes down like this: A colleague asks me if I know what's wrong with their computer. They don't have anything backed up, and they don't have a legitimate version of Windows either. I usually find about 5 toolbars in various languages, and about a dozen programs they never installed. They've heard of anti-virus, but not sure where to get it for free. I stick a Ubuntu disk in, run it live, which allows me to see everything stored on the machine. I go into their files and copy everything they ever produced to a jump drive, sometimes years of work and photos never saved anywhere else. Then I try to clean up their system by downloading some protection and running it in safe mode. This takes hours. When I ask them if they want to dual boot Ubuntu so they can learn it better, or maybe rescue themselves in the future, they just get nervous, even though they are now indebted to it, and they already use OpenOffice, and they don't have any other conflict with not using Windows, like having iTunes.

My point is that this guy is not analyzing the consumer's rational choices about operating systems, and he doesn't seem to know it.
posted by Brian B. at 9:51 AM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I run Win7 and Ubuntu as VMs on my Mac Mini. I win!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:05 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


The complaints about wifi not working in Linux are not a limitation of Linux. They are a defect of the proprietary commercial driver environment propagated by Microsoft. If you buy a wifi device known to work with Ubuntu, it will just work on start up. And I've spent way more than my fair share of time fighting wifi issues on Windows to accept the argument that it's much better. At least with Ubuntu the problem is usually known - there is no driver available. With Windows wifi, my time is sucked fighting issues when it just stopped working for no apparent reason.
posted by COD at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Right, the OS has had mutli-button mouse support for a while. But that doesn't change the fact the Steve Jobs hates buttons only slightly more than he hates developers. I knew plenty of Mac users who the first thing they did was buy a new mouse. It doesn't change the fact that they had to buy a new mouse because Apple wouldn't ship a multi-button mouse.
Personally if it has less than 5 buttons, I don't want it.


Did you buy a new mouse for your computer?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:52 AM on July 4, 2011


Ah yeah - everytime I get a wifi card for windows (maybe win7 is different?) I swear each one has to have their own separate software to work. Nothing works natively in windows - which is weird, cuz ostensibly the windows control panel has a wifi panel. But it's always overridden by the proprietary bullshit, which also makes sense w/the Linux issues. Stupid proprietary bullshit. At least the vidcards work better these days, and I never have to touch xFree86 Config files like back in the day. God I hated that.
posted by symbioid at 10:53 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally if it has less than 5 buttons, I don't want it.

Do you base your computer purchases on the mouse it ships with?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2011


Flame me if you want, but if you want to work at a professional level, really using the engine and a lot of the features of a spreadsheet program, there is only one choice: Excel.

Apple Numbers is a toy calculator. Try calculations with multiple conditions like COUNTIFS or SUMIFS in numbers and see how far that gets you. Try writing a macro.

OO Calc: Complicated functions? OK. Macros? If you can handle it. Need a pivot table? So sorry, I thought you wanted a nice scentific calculator, rather than a real spreadsheet, so I made OO Calc for you.

Haters may continue to hate, but sometimes (like when you want a full, grown-up spreadsheet application) Microsoft is the only place to go.
posted by chimaera at 11:21 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally if it has less than 5 buttons, I don't want it.

Well I use two keyboards and a hacked Kinect along with voice control and I really can't get anything done with less.
posted by fuq at 11:23 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This support of obsolete hardware was one of the selling points for me...but ubuntu isn't distro you want for that

There is a separate Ubuntu distrib for slower/older machines, Xubuntu or something, it has support for older hardware.

1% desktop marketshare

That says it all. If the market is a voting machine it seems the vast majority of people vote for other OS's - even factoring in marketing, if Linux was really superior to Windows more people would use it, just as most Internet servers use Unix and not Microsoft despite MS's marketing attempts.

Anyway, haven't we heard, the desktop is dead, tablets and cloud computing are the future (sigh).
posted by stbalbach at 11:25 AM on July 4, 2011


I recently switched to Ubuntu for my home dev box. Why? Because unless you're doing .NET development, any article about developing software assumes that you're running Linux. So for me, using Windows meant "swimming upstream". So I'm willing to tolerate Ubuntu's foibles -- like the fact that it crashes more often than Windows (and in fact crashed while I was trying to write this comment), the wireless driver that isn't quite right (causing it to lose connection randomly), the wonky video driver, etc.

No, I won'd be installing Ubuntu on my HTPC, because it doesn't offer any advantages in that area. Nor would I recommend it for the casual user, because, once again, it probably wouldn't improve their lives much. But as a dev box, and for my everyday home use, it's perfect, so I'll continue to use it as such.

One thing I wish the opensource proponents would quit harping on is the "free" aspect. To me, that's the least-compelling reason to use opensource software. Anybody who has ever used a computer will tell you that licensing costs pale in comparison to labor costs, both at work (in terms of employee hours) and at home (in terms of your free time). Ubuntu would have to beceome a LOT more n00b-friendly for cost to become a strong argument. (and I'm saying this as a Linux advocate!)

The best part of using Linux, as Bradley mentioned, is the community. As a developer, I've found this absolutely invaluable.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:34 AM on July 4, 2011


Mac laptops still had one button, but they understood right click on a separate pointing device to be a shortcut for ctrl-click.

Amusingly, it's the other way around: they interpret ctrl-click on a standard 1-button mouse as a right-click, at least for Cocoa apps. The mouse-event API is a holdover from NeXT which had a 2-button mouse. </derail>
posted by hattifattener at 11:37 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Need a pivot table? So sorry, I thought you wanted a nice scentific calculator, rather than a real spreadsheet, so I made OO Calc for you.

Calc does pivot tables. Calc calls them DataPilots. You can even import Excel pivot tables and work with them, if need be.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:49 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is a separate Ubuntu distrib for slower/older machines, Xubuntu or something, it has support for older hardware.

Xubuntu sometimes runs better on old hardware, because it uses XFCE rather than Gnome (Ubuntu) or KDE (Kubuntu), but XFCE isn't as light as it used to be. Lubuntu, which uses LXDE, might be a better choice.
posted by box at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


and you can't exactly recommend LaTeX to your mom.

Can we kill this fucking meme, at least here? "Your mom" and "old people" should not be lazy dimwits' shorthand for "stupid computer illiterates."

And my daughter's mum happily sets her music with Rosegarden and her linguistic essays with LaTeX.

Yeah, the Linux sound system is a fucking mess. And it's one of the main reasons why I can't switch to linux and abandon Windows.

But hey, we're going to give the entire boot process over to the guy who gave us PulseAudio. BRB, installing BSD.

Anybody who has ever used a computer will tell you that licensing costs pale in comparison to labor costs, both at work (in terms of employee hours) and at home (in terms of your free time).

Anyone who says that has never worked with much commercial software.
posted by rodgerd at 12:26 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


sonic meat machine: "Even programming tools are usually designed to work with the Unix paradigm, first and foremost; Eclipse, for example, is cross platform, but I've never had anything but a headache with it on Windows.
"

I'm a software developer who uses eclipse, and an Ubuntu member. I think you're really overselling how well eclipse works with Ubuntu. There are two options with eclipse in Ubuntu: you can install the eclipse package, or you can manually install one that works. All that emphasis on looking for packaged software instead of downloading off the internet will guide you wrong.

The package in universe is now two versions (years) old, rips out the self update option, and was always sketchy due to GNU's antagonism with Java. So you install it to /opt, and change permissions to let you update it. Then you get to hunt down all the plugins that make it half decent, like a DB explorer that doesn't autocommit, Apache DS, and so on. ANd then on upgrade you get to guess how that works. I failed.
posted by pwnguin at 12:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recently put Xubuntu on a friend's laptop (her hard drive had oxidised to death, she was going to Croatia the next day, she needed something that ran Flash for an art project), and it worked well on a device with 256MB of RAM. Basically I went up through Puppy Linux to Xubuntu to Ubuntu, then back down to Xubuntu when Ubuntu refused to work...
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:52 PM on July 4, 2011


fuq: "I have never heard of anyone being able to get JACK to work outside of purely hypothetical neckbeards"

Well I'm a fully realized neckbeard and I made this chain work: Phonon->Pulseaudio->Jack->ALSA. I've been using Linux for 18 years and this was the most idiotic thing I've ever had to do. I now have dozens of volume faders.

All of the pieces in that stack have serious design problems - particularly with their UI, but also in their very reason for existence. I just want them all to disappear.
posted by vanar sena at 12:57 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


pwnguin, I never install development tools out of a package manager. That's one of the failures of the Linux package system; it's really terrible for the things that are sensitive to what version you're using. And yeah, Eclipse can be a pain to get set up, but once it's set up it works great. In Windows, not so much. It's still a pain to set up, but for whatever reason its performance is not spectacular after you've suffered that ordeal.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2011


(On the other hand: I plugged in an Apogee ONE audio interface and it just worked, with all the extra functionality. This is a device that is explicitly Mac only, and will never have a Windows driver!
posted by vanar sena at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2011


)
posted by vanar sena at 1:05 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


loquacious: "What gives, linux wizards and neckbeards? Why do you guys hate audio? Why can't I use a F/OSS program for DJing like MIXX and not have it suck?
"

From what I've seen it's a fundamental choice between keeping existing users happy and risking breaking them for support for broader things. 99 percent of people bitching about PulseAudio do so because of regressions, not because of CPU overhead or general design philosophy. The device file as audio interface pretty much prevents anything other than piping to a single audio chip, and trying to cram an entire mixing API into the kernel has been fools gold. History is littered with their corpses. Pulse audio works in userspace, and as such, can run on POSIX and windows.

The current Ubuntu pulseaudio implementation works for me. I get roughly the same volume slider UI as I get in Vista: per application sliders, and universal mute. And BT audio, with controls. It works just fine on my laptop, on my Mac Pro at work, and on my Nokia phone. Pulse works*.

*Okay, technically when I tried to use my N900 as a streaming pulseaudio bridge between my laptop and stereo system there was a version mismatch, but I blame Nokia for shipping ancient pulse libs.
posted by pwnguin at 1:13 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


sonic meat machine wrote: but neither Calc or Gnumeric really allows the interactive pivot tables

Calc does. It's different than Excel, though. To be fair, as best I can tell the latest Excel is different from all previous Excels in that respect, also.


enn wrote: CUPS is a cuddly teddy bear compared to whatever the fuck PulseJackOLSSA audio thing we are supposed to be using these days. 2011 and I cannot having two fucking programs playing sound at the same fucking time.

That's odd. I haven't had a problem with that in several years. Before that, it was a matter of having a sound card with a hardware mixer, so there was some arcaneness involved. In Natty, the default ALSA configuration uses the software mixer such that more than one program can output sound even if your sound card doesn't have an onboard mixer. Pulseaudio also has a software mixer, so anything that uses Pulse should be automagically good to go regardless of your hardware situation.

That's not to say that sound is all good. If you've got an NVidia card/chipset with HDMI output, try actually using that multichannel sound goodness. You'll note that things don't come out of the right speaker. (in my case, center and rear right and LFE and rear left are/were reversed) And if you fix ALSA it doesn't fix Pulseaudio. And if you fix ALSA the wrong way, it'll break Pulseaudio entirely. Very frustrating.

It appears Pulseaudio has been radically changed in the last couple of versions, such that the configuration files that one can use in Natty to remap the channels correctly have been removed, so who the hell knows what's going on there.
posted by wierdo at 1:41 PM on July 4, 2011


loquacious wrote: Yeah, the Linux sound system is a fucking mess. And it's one of the main reasons why I can't switch to linux and abandon Windows.

And on further reading, that article is full of a bunch of bullshit. Some of its criticisms are reasonable and accurate (ALSA is terribly complicated, and many of its drivers suck donkey nuts), but the latency with Pulseaudio is nowhere near 3 seconds as he claims. Now, if you need sub-10ms latency and as close to zero jitter as possible, it's not an appropriate solution for you, but for those of us with the usual desktop requirements, it's perfectly fine. And it can pipe the audio through another computer on the network, which can be handy. (my laptop, for example, can pipe all its audio through my HTPC)
posted by wierdo at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2011


Like the one-button mouse myth, the Mac App Store scare tactics need to die a painful death.

Honestly, I'd like to believe Apple wouldn't go App Store only for Mac software distribution. I take a bit of offense at being told I'm scare mongering, but no one would be happier to be shown conclusively my fears are unfounded here than me.

My hardware experiences with Linux have been surprisingly good, in fact better than Windows. More recent versions of Windows need downloaded or CD driver installations to properly support better graphics cards, but they tend to either work right after install on Linux or be installed via the proprietary drivers download prompt, usually appearing shortly into the first boot. (OSX can get around this because it's supposed to only run on Macs anyway, and so Apple doesn't have to support a wide range of hardware.)

I do happen to have, however, a USB WiFi device that's supported by Linux, which lets me get on the internet immediately in order to install the drivers for whatever proprietary wireless solution that laptop manufacturer has decided to use on the system. It's been a lifesaver more than once. (Windows often requires driver downloads on install too, and it doesn't automatically recognize that wireless device anymore, meaning it tends to be harder to set up, in my experience, than Linux.)
posted by JHarris at 3:09 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


One button mouse myth?

Maybe it's the one about how more than one mouse button is too confusing to most people. The idea that people can use more than one finger to press a different button has long been fabled to be too hard for the common man. Interestingly, the common man can miraculously use keyboards, and more recently, multi-touch gestures without a problem. Very strange.

I was once told that the use of more than one button was also "hand gymnastics".
posted by juiceCake at 3:12 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


and you can't exactly recommend LaTeX to your mom.

Can we kill this fucking meme, at least here? "Your mom" and "old people" should not be lazy dimwits' shorthand for "stupid computer illiterates."
I installed Ubuntu on my grand-nephew's machine after getting fed up with his XP malware collection.

Typical teenager that he is, he needed extensive tutorials -- e.g., on where to find the "close window" button. He's not going to use much more than Firefox, LibreOffice and Totem (for videos), so no dramatic lifestyle changes are anticipated. But I found Ubuntu impressive. Everything just worked, including a connection to the wireless printer through CUPS.

After overcoming my initial suspiciousness about MSDOS, I eventually developed a certain fondness for Microsoft OS products. I'm fairly confident that anything you can do in Linux, for example, you can also do in Windows.

My current preference, however, is for Gnome on FreeBSD -- there's certainly more adventure to be had. Try installing Openshot from the Ports collection: you will soon be presented with
Options for mlt 0.6.2_2
[ ] Avformat module
[ ] Quasar DV Codec module
[ ] Frei0r module
[ ] GTK2 module
[ ] JACK Rack module
[ ] Kino module
[ ] Qimage module
[ ] Secret Rabbit Code module
I haven't the faintest idea about "mlt 0.6.2_2" or why I need it, and I cannot imagine the purpose of this Secret Rabbit Code module. But that's what adventures are all about: mystery. Does your operating system provide you with this level of entertainment?
posted by fredludd at 3:28 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I knew plenty of Mac users who the first thing they did was buy a new mouse. It doesn't change the fact that they had to buy a new mouse because Apple wouldn't ship a multi-button mouse. Personally if it has less than 5 buttons, I don't want it.

And you, as a multi-button mouse user just acquired this device by not buying it? It came with your "shipping" computer? I'm confused.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


hattifattener: Amusingly, it's the other way around: they interpret ctrl-click on a standard 1-button mouse as a right-click, at least for Cocoa apps. The mouse-event API is a holdover from NeXT which had a 2-button mouse.

And the control-click one button era is a holdover from pre NeXT Mac operating systems.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:53 PM on July 4, 2011


I'd put a pretty fine point on the 'not ready for n00bs' arguments. (Not old ladies, please.)

Linux can be a difficult transition for a sort of middling GUI user, who has become acclimated to navigating a specific interface, with its specific conventions. However, for someone who has experience with different OSes or for a brand new, fresh, naive user, Linux is no more difficult or kludgy to get around in than any other major OS. It's just that, if you've been using Windows forever, you begin to get used to the notion that it's somehow 'intuitive.' It is not. There is absolutely nothing inherently understandable even about the desktop metaphor, much less about the location and function of different icons on your screen.

IMO, the real killer app for Linux is APT. It's been a while since I've used Windows or a Mac regularly, but I'm not aware that they have anything that really rivals that, particularly to the well-maintained Ubuntu repositories. Is there any way that, on a Windows machine, you can go to an official repository, search for applications by function, and then install on your system automatically? For free?

The old hardware thing is a pretty big deal, too. Back when Vista was first announced and there was all this hype around things like wobbly and transparent windows and such, as proof of concept, I got my sub-$300 system running exactly those same features, well before Vista was even released.

And ultimately, a lot of the frustration I've seen from people all over the techno spectrum is with control. In most cases, the ease of solving a problem doesn't vary that greatly from one OS to another, but with an open source OS, your chances of the problem being plausibly solvable at all are far greater.

So I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Linux to a relative noob with a little patience and/or curiosity, who mostly used their computer to access the internet (that's the vast majority, I think), didn't do a lot of gaming, and didn't have specific Mac or Windows based software they needed to use.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:14 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's the one about how more than one mouse button is too confusing to most people. The idea that people can use more than one finger to press a different button has long been fabled to be too hard for the common man.

IIRC, it was done more to limit software developers from hiding functionality in other buttons. But, yeah, I find that second button on PC laptops to be damn annoying.

IMO, the real killer app for Linux is APT. It's been a while since I've used Windows or a Mac regularly, but I'm not aware that they have anything that really rivals that, particularly to the well-maintained Ubuntu repositories.

MacPorts?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker wrote: IIRC, it was done more to limit software developers from hiding functionality in other buttons. But, yeah, I find that second button on PC laptops to be damn annoying.

What? I get terribly annoyed when I use a laptop that only has two mouse buttons. Or only has a trackpad, for that matter.
posted by wierdo at 5:59 PM on July 4, 2011


What gives, linux wizards and neckbeards? Why do you guys hate audio? Why can't I use a F/OSS program for DJing like MIXX and not have it suck?

It's balkanized. There are too many Linux sound systems: OSS, ALSA, arts, JACK, esound, PulseAudio. There's no central authority a la Apple or Microsoft, and sometimes these systems don't play well together.

PulseAudio is a nice improvement in some ways, and in my experience it's a lot more stable now than it was when Ubuntu first started pushing it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:12 PM on July 4, 2011


I recently got a new TV and I thought I'd hook up an old Dell to it and surf in the living room. Well that box had a history of running hot, so I thought I'd get an SSD and see if that helped. For some reason it proved impossible to run Linux with this new drive on that computer. I could install it on the SSD no problem, and the Dell was running fine with Ubuntu on a regular drive, but the combination of the two just wouldn't work. I even tried different distros and actually got crunchbang to install, but that seemed unwieldy for an entertainment center so I dug out my old XP disc and bit the bullet. Whadaya know, I was up and running in 20 minutes. I guess windows does have some good points, but I'm already sick of hitting "re-start" a dozen times a day.
posted by ambulocetus at 8:21 PM on July 4, 2011


Out of curiosity, what does programming on a Linux platform offer that programming on a Windows platform lacks?

Somewhat late to the thread, and that was an early question, but I want to chime in here.

In a very real way, you can say that this is the primary difference between Windows and Linux. (and Unix in general.) On Windows, you are A User. You buy the OS by itself, and it comes with some very basic stuff, but very little in the way of programming tools. You can buy programming languages (or download a few free), but they don't particularly integrate into the system. You have to take an active step to change yourself from A User into A Programmer, and even then, the two worlds are fundamentally separate and different.

Unix's fundamental assumption seems to be that, in essence, everyone is a programmer all the time. At least at the command line, the system is made up of simple tools, which you can just use, or glue together in arbitrarily complex ways to accomplish arbitrarily complex tasks. There's no bright line between users and programmers; if you're chaining together programs at the command line (cat filename | wc -l to count the number of lines in a file, for instance), that's still User territory. But if you type this: for i in `ls *.txt`; do cat $i | wc -l; done, you just counted all the text files in the current directory, and you turned into a programmer.

There are numerous powerful languages in a default Ubuntu install (and in most Linux variants), including the bash shell scripting language, perl, python, and C, and there are dozens more available for an easy install. And they all integrate nicely into the shell, turning into almost invisible extensions of it. There's no bright line between users and programmers; you can just use the system, but you can shade into programming tasks of any complexity. As your skill grows, your control grows, and eventually you can tackle and change any problem, anywhere in the system, or add any feature you like. There's no fence to keep you out of Stuff You Shouldn't Be Messing With, Peon.

Unfortunately, the desktop environments took too much from Windows. While they're open to you at the source code level, most have little inherent programmability, and there's no real way to tie programs together in arbitrary ways. The desktops feel just like Windows in some of the ways that are most damaging to your ability to think and explore and customize, but without the polish of Windows or OS X. (although, honestly, Ubuntu really does look pretty nice these days.) People saw Office on Windows, and wrote OpenOffice (now LibreOffice for the fork that's important), instead of redefining the problem in Unixy terms.

I don't have a clear answer to what they should have done. It's certainly not obvious that they did anything wrong. But that same fundamental split between Users and Programmers seems to have come across as they aped the programs on Windows, a differentiation that is entirely absent at the command line. I think that's really unfortunate.

I think the recent moves by GNOME to completely turn off all options and ability to customize, to try to completely destroy your ability to use the tools of your machine to think with, are entirely wrongheaded and stupid. They are destroying the system for the people that can really use a computer, trying to make the product good for people who can't. They're not trying to solve problems in better ways, they're trying to get market share by capturing the brain-dead. I couldn't possibly disagree with their new direction more.
posted by Malor at 9:12 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the recent moves by GNOME to completely turn off all options and ability to customize, to try to completely destroy your ability to use the tools of your machine to think with, are entirely wrongheaded and stupid.

This isn't their goal. Their goal is to minimize the presence of the DE so much that customization isn't really an issue. I like GNOME 3 and Fedora a lot. It helps me easily manage all of my different applications (running and launching), looks good doing it, and when it's not doing anything it gets out of the way.
posted by unknownmosquito at 9:21 PM on July 4, 2011


</derail>

If only!
posted by Jpfed at 9:33 PM on July 4, 2011


<derail>

But if you type this: for i in `ls *.txt`; do cat $i | wc -l; done, you just counted all the text files in the current directory, and you turned into a programmer.

Actually, if you type that, you've made several mistakes. If your goal is to count the text files in the current directory, you want: ls *.txt | wc -l. If you want to count the lines in all the text files in the current directory (which is what the snippet you provided almost does)1, you want: wc -l *.txt.

[1] the given snippet will mess up if there's a text file with a space in its name; if there isn't, it will display a list of the line count of each file, but no total.

</derail>
posted by kenko at 10:38 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have a clear answer to what they should have done.

The ARexx ports on AmigaOS 2 and up were pretty much the bomb, and the ability to seamlessly string apps togather, piping them from GUI to shell to GUI, was very Unixy. Like everything else in the Amiga world it was years ahead of its time, and in this case sadly it hasn't really been copied that much.

It's a pity that something like GIMPs Script-Fu extensions didn't become part-and-parcel of the standard for building GNOME apps along with the GTK.
posted by rodgerd at 11:19 PM on July 4, 2011


If you want to count the lines in all the text files in the current directory (which is what the snippet you provided almost does)1, you want: wc -l *.txt.

ls | grep txt$ | xargs wc -l

--
At least the vidcards work better these days, and I never have to touch xFree86 Config files like back in the day. God I hated that.
That's what happened when I setup this new machine. The video card was detected and installed on boot. The problem came in when I tried to install the other three. Basically there was no way to get the xorg.conf file to autogenerate for four cards. Of course, that's a pretty uncommon usage scenario.
Flame me if you want, but if you want to work at a professional level, really using the engine and a lot of the features of a spreadsheet program, there is only one choice: Excel.
I heard there was some spreadsheet that was really popular with wallstreet types for some reason. I couldn't figure out what it was but I bet this resolver one could handle anything you might throw at it, since it's 'spreadsheets' are actually python programs.
I recently switched to Ubuntu for my home dev box. Why? Because unless you're doing .NET development, any article about developing software assumes that you're running Linux.
Actually that's a good point. It's actually the reason I installed Ubuntu in a virtual machine. I wanted to play around with CouchDB pretty much everything was designed around using it on Linux. I also thought it would be cleaner to install it on a separate image rather then adding it to my main windows install. The fact that it's free makes it easy to do this. You can setup as many Linux installs as you want.
Eclipse can be a pain to get set up, but once it's set up it works great. In Windows, not so much. It's still a pain to set up, but for whatever reason its performance is not spectacular after you've suffered that ordeal.
Again I have to point out: I've been using eclipse on windows for years, and never noticed any performance problems. The experience of using it on windows and Linux is about identical. Installing on Windows and Linux also works the same way: You just unzip it and run the main executable (assuming Java is installed). The fact that it's java means you're basically running it in the JVM, not the host OS.
posted by delmoi at 2:04 AM on July 5, 2011


There's no fence to keep you out of Stuff You Shouldn't Be Messing With, Peon.

This is a very good point, because the fence is there not only at a practical but also a conceptual level: The reason I won't be leaving the linux/unix world ever is that my system behaves in a way that is both predictable and knowable. If something goes wrong (and it often does, if you are programming), you can always drill down to the relevant level and figure out what it is. Configuration files - 99.5% of them, at least - are readable text files I can edit by hand, even over a terminal connection if I can't access the GUI for some reason, and they can be diffed, versioned or just plain memorized.

When solving problems in the Windows world, you eventually run into some abstraction barrier you will not be able to cross without official credentials: either you don't have access to the tools, the documentation or the source you would need, or what you are looking for has been intentionally locked away.

This is the reason why, when you are asking for help on Linux message boards people will suggest you go mess with some obscure config file somewhere -- because you can. For the equivalent Windows problem, the suggestion would be to either wipe and reinstall or spend some money on professional help, but that is seen as a good thing for some reason.

Also, if you are depending on the filename to identify text files you are asking for trouble - check out man file.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:21 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


To the corrections on that code snippet:

Yeah, yeah, it was just a quick off-the-cuff example. I was trying to show that morphing from a user to a programmer is a single step, one that you might not even realize you were taking. I was just casting around for a way to show a quick loop in a shell, not trying to tell people that that was the right way to do it.

I probably could have chosen a better example, but it sufficed for the point, which is that on Unix, at least at the command line, all users are programmers. It's just a matter of how much programming you do.

That's not so true at the desktop, which I find unfortunate.

oh, and as an aside: there's always about 85 ways to do any particular thing at a bash command prompt. Some are kludgy, like my example, some are terse, some are frighteningly clever. There's often no clear 'best' way to do something.

In this case, however, you can be quite certain that my method is not it. :-)
posted by Malor at 5:34 AM on July 5, 2011


Malor: "Unfortunately, the desktop environments took too much from Windows. While they're open to you at the source code level, most have little inherent programmability, and there's no real way to tie programs together in arbitrary ways."

Between DBUS and KParts, I don't think this is really the case any more. The documentation is the problem, in that there is very little. There have been so many deep infrastructure changes in both GNOME and KDE over the past five years that the documentation hasn't had time to catch up.

I doubt this is going to improve in the near term, since there are lots of infrastructure changes still happening.
posted by vanar sena at 6:30 AM on July 5, 2011


His problem is that he tried to do things with linux that windows wouldn't have let you do.

The difference between a toy and a tool is that a toy won't do exactly what you told it to do because it expects you to be an idiot. A tool does exactly what you tell it to do, when you tell it to do it.

He didn't respect the whole hawg.
posted by Freen at 6:54 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reading up on old Metafilter threads about Ubuntu a couple of months ago convinced me to to try out Wubi on my netbook. The OS is much more gorgeous and fun then I thought it would be. I'll try to slowly covert, but it's hard going. The two roadblocks I have run into are iTunes and WinEDT. They're pretty much the only reason I use my netbook instead of my iPad, so their not working in Ubuntu is a real killer. Although I think I can probably work around the incompatibilities of those particular programs with Ubuntu, I can also tell it'll take some time.

I'd love to get away from iTunes as my music organizer, but I use it for syncing my iPhone and iPad, which seems difficult to do through Ubuntu (given that I have so much money already invested in iOS applications, I'm not likely to leave the iOS family anytime soon). It's not just syncing music: I need to sync apps, move PDFs into uPad through iTunes, etc.

WinEDT is just the LaTeX editor I use, but it doesn't work through Ubuntu and I've customized it with all sorts of macros and templates, so I don't really relish having to figure out and customize a new editor.

Accessing files and preserving my Windows directory structure turned out to be annoying too. It turns out I've really organized my whole professional life into a system of folders and directories in Windows, and I didn't want to mess with that too much, so I just accessed files in them by running Dropbox in Ubuntu. That felt real kludgey.
posted by painquale at 7:13 AM on July 5, 2011


WinEDT is just the LaTeX editor I use, but it doesn't work through Ubuntu and I've customized it with all sorts of macros and templates, so I don't really relish having to figure out and customize a new editor.

You'll find there's a ton of programmers' editors available - you could pick a side in the greatest holy war in history (hint: emacs with auctex is the right choice) or go for one of the less well-known ones.

You could also try running WinEDT under Wine if you don't want to or can't afford to retrain right now - an editor is a pretty simple program from an OS point of view, chances are it will Just Work.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:23 AM on July 5, 2011


Well, there's no particular rush on converting. It's nice to not be as subject to the whims of Microsoft and Apple, but you're still somewhat subject to the whims of Canonical, and the free software community as a whole. If they decide to go in a direction you don't like, you're not as vulnerable as you would otherwise be, but there's no guarantee that enough other people will agree with you and maintain a fork of the code base you prefer.

Typically, though, free software isn't as driven by commercial release cycles and the need to sell you something on a regular basis, so it IS safer. It is not, however, entirely safe.

You can run your editor under a virtualized Windows (or possibly Wine, as Dr. Dracator points out), but running iTunes that way could be painful; you need to configure your virtualization program to pass the USB device through to the virtual OS. I know VMWare can do this on a Windows host, but I'm not sure whether it can do that on a Linux host, or whether the free alternatives (Virtualbox, KVM, and Xen) can do it at all. You could fool around with those and see how much it hurts.

For running your editor, you'd just share a directory in your home dir to the virtual Windows; it looks like a network share. So you can map a drive letter there, and then work mostly normally. The Z drive, say, on Windows, would point to /home/painquale/winfiles or something like that. You probably don't want to share your whole home directory; if the Windows guest is compromised, that will limit its ability to damage other files.

On a Windows or Mac host, VMWare can do a nice 'Unity' mode, where the Windows desktop disappears, and the Windows programs appear to run directly on your host desktop. On the Mac, at least, it's very nearly seamless. But it doesn't work with Linux guests, so it may not work on a Linux host, either. Worth a try, but I make no guarantees.

These days, I usually run Windows on the bare metal on my main desktop, and run a couple of virtual Linux boxes under that. I have a quadcore machine with 16 gigs of RAM (god it was cheap), so I can't even tell that I have all those OSes going. When I want to be in Ubuntu, I just fullscreen it, and honestly can't tell that it's not native, except for the little VMWare menu that pops up in the top center of the screen if I mouse up there. I suspect, though I don't know for sure, that it'll be nearly as good the other way, with a Linux host and Windows guest(s).

VirtualBox is well thought of as well, and it's free; VMWare is fairly expensive. KVM is technically incredible, thoroughly integrated with the Linux kernel and very fast, but there isn't much user-level infrastructure done yet. So it runs guest OSes lickety-split, especially if they can run the virtio drivers, but the UI to get it all set up is sorely lacking. I hope that in the next year or two, that will change. Once the UI to get at all that technical goodness is more polished, I think it'll be the virtualization system of choice.
posted by Malor at 7:41 AM on July 5, 2011


one major advantage the Apple App Store brings- you know that what you're getting works. Apple won't accept software that isn't done and tested into the App Store.

This is the most untrue thing that I have ever seen written here about Apple. Actually one of the things that drove me to Android was that the iOS Google Voice app is an incredibly unreliable piece of SHIT, and I was using it for my texting platform. Now I use it for both voice and text on Android, and it works just fine. Maybe Google intentionally degraded the app for some reason (it wouldn't entirely surprise me), but Apple sure didn't make sure it worked.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:19 AM on July 5, 2011


you need to configure your virtualization program to pass the USB device through to the virtual OS. I know VMWare can do this on a Windows host, but I'm not sure whether it can do that on a Linux host, or whether the free alternatives (Virtualbox, KVM, and Xen) can do it at all.

VirtualBox does this very smoothly (provided you install the extension pack that enables USB2 support, which is covered by their PUEL rather than an open source licence). Only troubles I've ever had with it have involved host lockups while going in and out of sleep mode while running VBox with USB devices attached to a Windows guest on a Windows host. With a Linux host, it's always been rock-solid.
posted by flabdablet at 9:45 AM on July 5, 2011


With a Linux host, it's always been rock-solid.

Eh, I've seen a couple of hangs and the like when abusing USB devices with a Windows guest on a Linux host. Also some performance issues (particularly graphics and network), but overall it ranges from workable to pretty damn good.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:43 AM on July 5, 2011


Thanks for the advice, guys. Testimonials I read online suggest that WinEDT and iTunes don't work through Wine, though I didn't try either of them myself. WinEDT won't compile files properly---I guess I could edit tex files in WinEDT through Wine and then compile them in another program, but that seems like a huge hassle. I suspect I'll start playing with some other editor and slowly start migrating over. (I'll take a look at emacs+auctex. Kile also seemed reasonably nice.) There's no rush. The iTunes thing really does chafe, though. I really dislike that it's crappy iTunes, of all things, that is making me stuck with Windows. I think I read that iTunes doesn't play nicely under virtualized Windows either.

The information about the shared directory is helpful; I knew there was a way to do it, but figuring out how passed my frustration threshold last time around. I'll give it another shot soon.
posted by painquale at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2011


RE the Whole Hawg, I think it's important to note that linux makes the nearly impossible, possible, and beyond that, automated and user configurable. The problem arises when people who should not attempt the impossible do, thinking that like their prior experiences, their computer will prevent them from causing too much trouble. Linux, like the Whole Hawg contractor power drill will do exactly what you tell it to do. This, according to people who use these things as tools is considered a very very good thing. On the other hand, much like people who expect the Whole Hawg to resemble their $20 homedepot power drill and are upset that they have found themselves spinning instead of the bolt they were fastening, well, they aren't fans of either Linux or the Hawg.
posted by Freen at 4:31 PM on July 5, 2011


Also, if you are depending on the filename to identify text files you are asking for trouble - check out man file.


What file(1) considers a text file and what I will consider a text file, for the purpose of line-counting, differ. E.g.:

$ file mercurial.el
mercurial.el: ASCII English text


Indeed it is! (Why file doesn't tell me that mercurial.el is "Lisp/Scheme program text" is another question—but of course even lisp/scheme program source files are text files.) But, conceptually, it isn't a text file; it's not the sort of file I would give the extension ".txt" to. Since I don't name files pathologically, I'm content to use extensions to tell what they are.
posted by kenko at 7:36 PM on July 5, 2011


Why file doesn't tell me that mercurial.el is "Lisp/Scheme program text" is another question

An interesting question. I looked in the magic file that file uses on my RHEL5 system, which, of course, has the delightful name of /usr/share/file/magic. It uses this pattern to recognize Lisp/Scheme files:
0       string  (                       
>1      string  if\                     Lisp/Scheme program text
>1      string  setq\                   Lisp/Scheme program text
>1      string  defvar\                 Lisp/Scheme program text
>1      string  autoload\               Lisp/Scheme program text
>1      string  custom-set-variables    Lisp/Scheme program text
Hardly a foolproof way of doing it. I'm guessing mercurial.el doesn't have any of these forms in use.
posted by grouse at 10:45 PM on July 5, 2011


I may be an idiot, but the only reason I really use Windows anymore is because I'm one of those people who use their word processor to make a living. Web gotten around doing that is I have Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which the bastards just won't make for Linux. I haven't really toyed around with some of the open-source voice-recognition software, but given how well this one works, I don't really see how I could transition to Ubuntu with this software that I've spent a long time training to recognize my accent without taking a major productivity hit.

I have played around with Linux in the past, and I like it for what it is. I'm also a major proponent of open source software and uses much of it is I can in my routine tasks. I'm in love with OpenOffice, and as a translator, of video files no less, I find that the open source tools are a lot easier to use than the proprietary ones. I also do a lot of my work on old machines, which Ubuntu does handle much more cleanly than even Windows XP, in my experience. What's bugging me right now is that autopager doesn't fucking work on PC World. I don't know if Ubuntu could fix that.
posted by saysthis at 10:51 PM on July 5, 2011


Yeah, I don't think there's anything equivalent to Naturally Speaking in open source, and there may never be. It's a very hard problem, it serves a niche market, and the market served isn't inherently people who program. Commercial development may be the only way to fund it. Make sure Dragon knows you want a Linux version; maybe eventually there will be enough interest for them to port it. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

That's the sort of thing I think government would be very good at; funding a cooperative development program to get voice recognition into free software would strike me as an extremely good use of public money. But even sound investments like that are difficult to justify when the government is in as much of a hole as it is. Might be a good project for more fiscally sound countries.

It's okay if you're still using commercial software. Open source may never cover everyone's needs. But it's sure come a long, long way in the last twenty years.

I think the most important part is that it's a credible alternative, and it helps keep the commercial providers honest. They have to actually compete, instead of using their control over the code you're running to extract money from you, whether you like it or not. If they got sufficiently dickish, you could jump ship, and they know that.

The fact that you're running so much free software is a big help, in and of itself, because of network effects. If you can donate a little bit to the projects you really use, that would help even more. You don't have to pay for that code, but I think it's a good idea. I try to support projects I use a lot, especially when they're useful only to a narrow range of people.
posted by Malor at 11:28 PM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since I don't name files pathologically, I'm content to use extensions to tell what they are.

You don't but somebody else may, so being conservative is not a bad idea. One of the organizations involved in a system I am working on regularly sends comma-delimited data files with an .XLS extension: their official excuse is that they are doing this to make sure the file will open in excel with a double click on Windows. Of course people then use the "Save As" command to save a local copy and excel silently converts the local copy to actual xls. Someone then tries to feed the file to a processing program that expects plain text and hilarity ensues.

Such silliness aside, file extensions are mostly but not entirely standardized: .doc is the worst offender that comes to mind, used for both "Plain text documentation I want to be reading with more" and "Horrible binary blob that will fuck up my terminal settings". Furthermore, the extension paradigm is not built-in in unix, and occasionaly gets subverted - for example, emacs will use foo.txt~ for the backup file of foo.txt. Finally, if you ever exchange files with Windows people, you will end up with a mix of .txt and .TXT files which you now need to be renaming or do some extra work to handle in your shell patterns.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:31 PM on July 5, 2011


their official excuse is that they are doing this to make sure the file will open in excel with a double click on Windows.

I seem to be missing a vital point, here. Has the MS Office installer ever not registered Excel as the default handler for .csv files?
posted by flabdablet at 11:40 PM on July 5, 2011


Yeah my question also, but that's what they do. I'm guessing someone high up in their chain of command messed up the file associations on their PC at some point and came up with this wonderful idea for fixing it.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:01 AM on July 6, 2011


There is a separate Ubuntu distrib for slower/older machines, Xubuntu or something, it has support for older hardware.

Xubuntu is just a different window manager on top of ubuntu. If ubuntu botches or ditches support for your video card Xubuntu isn't going to bring it back.

What xubuntu is supposed to do, but might not actually, is provide a better user interface experience on a system that works with ubuntu but runs too slow (I use it on my even older than old laptop and it seems good enough).
posted by srboisvert at 1:11 AM on July 6, 2011


Malor: Dragon knows, but yeah, I doubt they'd port it. They're a for-profit company of the most for-profit sort; their software actually has mechanisms to disable it for entry on software specifically used by the medical/legal communities. The "professional" version is $200, the "legal" and "medical" versions, which are the basic version with software controls turned off plus extra vocab (which it would be trivial for someone who purchases the software to teach it for free), are something like $500-$1000 more.

I think the most important part is that it's a credible alternative, and it helps keep the commercial providers honest. They have to actually compete, instead of using their control over the code you're running to extract money from you, whether you like it or not. If they got sufficiently dickish, you could jump ship, and they know that.

This this this over and over and over. When you can't jump ship, they don't improve it, they just find ways to extort more money from you. The sheer convenience of just being able to download and install Linux, rather than having to physically go out and get a disc, has been enough to keep me using it all but my main work computer. Same with OpenOffice. When basic functionality is free, extras are that much more worth the money, and the people who spend the time to create them and are people I want to pay.
posted by saysthis at 12:52 AM on July 7, 2011


« Older There is no "I"   |   "Either she's an evil... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post