Remember when I wrote that it wouldn't really be feasible to support Linux because there are so many to choose from? Well, MIT didn't feel that way. They selected Ubuntu and Fedora as their supported Linux OSes. Maybe there is hope for the rest of us then.
All loving and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Okay. So the other day I posted a story about ‘Helen’ and her plunge into the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) world of Ubuntu. Well, just yesterday afternoon, another young woman comes in to my office asking for help installing Ubuntu on her laptop along side of Windows! Was there a meeting somewhere that I missed? When I explained that it’s not officially supported, she stated, ‘It's for research in my department’. As I was helping her with the general install questions, I asked the ultimate question, ‘Why are you installing this? What research are you doing?’ She stated that the DNA app they use . . . wait for it . . . only runs in Linux!
You could have knocked me over with a feather! So, there is at least one department that is having it’s group use Linux. And the Linux distribution of choice? Ubuntu.
That pretty much made my day. As I reflect on this, I need to contact the user and see if she needs a follow up with her install . . .
A few days ago, a young woman (we’ll call her ‘Gladys’) and her friend (we’ll call her ‘Helen’) came to see me at work. ‘Gladys’ was having an issue with her computer and needed me to scan it for bugs, which I did. It was highly infected and I recommended that she back up her data and think about rebuilding it (all the data on the drive is deleted, including Windows, and everything re-installed). She asked how she could back up her data so I explained it to her. She commented that she was worried about using her system since it had been infected so badly. I assured her that I removed all of the bugs but she was still wary. So I showed her Ubuntu. I booted it from a USB thumb drive and showed her how she could access her local hard drive and then back up her data on to another USB key or external hard drive. ‘Helen’ piped in about this time. ‘That’s cool! I want that!’ I explained that it can be downloaded from Ubuntu’s website and that it can be ran in a ‘live’ environment from a USB drive, like I was doing, or from a CD. ‘That way, you can see how it’s going to act with your computer’. I explained that Ubuntu can be installed next to Windows or in place of Windows if she wanted. ‘But,’ I stressed, ‘we do not support it on the network’.
And that’s a sad thing. I understand the issue. There are dozens (hundreds?) of different linux distros out there and for us to support them all would be crazy and to pick a certain few would be unwise (‘Hey! How come you don’t support my favorite linux distro?’). But, still, I wish we could support Ubuntu. And, yes, I know I’m biased. It the most popular Linux desktop out there and getting more popular each day - mostly from word of mouth. Which leads me back to ‘Helen’.
Just this week, ‘Helen’ appeared at my office with some questions about Ubuntu. I stressed again that it’s not officially supported. She was fine with that. She was so tired of Windows that she was ready to take the plunge. She explained that she burned Ubuntu onto a CD and was running it from there but it was slow - not as slow as Vista on the same PC but still. I explained that this was because she was running it from the CD. Her only issue was that the wireless connection wasn’t working. I explained that there was probably a driver for it. She said that there was. She saw an ‘Additional Driver’ window pop up requesting that she activate the Broadcom driver for her wireless (wifi) card. But when she rebooted the laptop to get it to work, it wasn’t working. Just then, she figured out why - it was because Ubuntu was running from a CD and the CD couldn’t be written to. Still, she wanted to take the plunge. I explained to ‘Helen’ that, since she has an iPhone, it would be best to keep windows. ‘Won’t Ubuntu work with my phone?’ she asked. Absolutely! But the only way for it to get updates to the iOS (that’s the name of the Operating System of the iPhone), was through iTunes. And since Apple won’t release iTunes for Ubuntu, you will need Windows to update the iOS for your phone.’*
So, she started the process of installing Ubuntu next to Windows on her computer (after she defragged Windows just to make sure it was going to act nicely). After it was installed, we activated the Broadcom drivers and she was running on wifi.
Next, she installed all of her updates and rebooted (normally, one doesn’t need to do this, but she had a new kernel - the brain of the whole thing - and it must be restarted to use the new kernel). And then, she installed Ubuntu Tweak. Remember in a previous post where I talked about not having to go to the Terminal for installing new software or tweaking your system? That people need a GUI (a Graphical User Interface)? Well, Ubuntu Tweak is just such an application. I used to have an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with steps and apps and tweaks I needed to do after I installed Ubuntu. Not any more. Ubuntu Tweak does about 99.9% of those jobs for me.
After installing Ubuntu Tweak and downloading some apps (she wanted Chrome and Docky) and tweaking her system (she wanted the buttons on the right side of the windows), she set about configuring her system (changing the wallpaper; etc.). She was so excited she was giddy and almost glowing! ‘This is so cool! I can’t wait to play with it!’ Everytime she saw some new thing, she lit up and her eyes grew wide! It was a great thing to watch.
By the way, when we rebooted, we launched Windows from the new menu just to make sure it would load properly. It did. It took almost two minutes to load and longer to shut down (which was ‘normal’), but it worked just fine - for Windows.
So, we now have a new Ubuntu user amongst us! It’s a great feeling seeing someone get excited about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), especially Ubuntu and taking control of her computer. I can only think of a few better things than this.
~~~ In the Love of the Three in One,
* [NOTE: I know that there are ways of running Windows apps on Ubuntu through tools like Wine or CrossOver Linux but iTunes is one of those apps that doesn’t work very well in that environment. Furthermore, she could use something like Virtualbox to run Windows within Ubuntu, but I don’t think she is ready for that yet. Perhaps later when she grows tired of switching back and forth, we’ll have that conversation.]
Give us Grace, O God, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of your salvation, that we and the whole world may percieve the glory of your marvelous works; with Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
...or, Linux will never be an ‘average user’ Operating System (OS) if all the tips and tricks start by saying, ‘Open a terminal...’
And by ‘average user’ I mean the 99.9% of the population that uses a computer - Moms and Dads, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, heck even collage students, etc.
While I understand where geekdom is coming from with regards to the terminal, the average user does NOT want to use the terminal! I don’t care what we geeks may think is ‘easier’, as soon as I read an article that states one can ‘easily’ install something by opening a terminal, I roll my eyes and get a little more irritated.
Let me be as clear as possible: To the average user, using the terminal means one of two things - it’s too hard to use, or it’s not ready to use.
Think about it. The average person using Windows never has to open a terminal. If our computer language to them about making changes, installing software, etc. starts with opening a terminal, they will not like the experience and revert back to Windows.
That’s what I love about Ubuntu. It is geared to the ‘average user’. It strives to take the ‘geek’ out of Linux. Now, I know that bothers some Linux folks, but I completely agree with their vision. Their focus is on the user experience. And there must be some truth behind that focus because Ubuntu is the most popular, recognized and widely used Linux OS around.
With that stated, however, there are even Ubuntu tips and tricks sites that use the same old terminal technique for installing software and managing the system. In other words, they are putting the geek back in Ubuntu! They are moving people in the opposite direction that Ubuntu is leading them. And while I find those articles extremely helpful for me, the average user would be completely lost.
So, while I applaud all of those people that are helping the average user with her new OS, we have to make it as simple for her as possible to use. And that means using methods that she will be familiar and comfortable with - a Graphical User Interface (GUI). We, as service and support people, need to meet our customers where they’re at - not expect them to come to where we are. Computers and tech and gadgets are OUR passions - not theirs. And to have the mind that ‘She should know how to use [whatever] because she’s using Linux’ is just plain nonsense. We geeks use things every day and we don’t have the slightest inkling of how they work and how to make them work, whether that’s transportation or gardening or clothing. We are all experts of our own experiences. We shouldn’t expect others to be experts in our experiences, too.
Unless of course, we really don’t want Ubuntu (and other Linux OSes) to be used by more people. And if that’s the case, then let’s stop complaining about how evil all of the other OSes are. One of the reasons those other OSes attract more people is that [gasp] they’re [seem to be] more user friendly! And if we aren’t willing to do that, if we don’t want to help people where they’re at, then let’s keep our mouths shut and let Linux once more be just a hobby for geekdom.
But if we really do want Ubuntu (and other Linux OSes) to be used by more people, let’s do everyone a big favor. Let’s start making our tools and tips without the use of the terminal. It will instantly make Ubuntu (and other Linux OSes) more mainstream and accessible.
And, if you have a blog or tech site about tips and tricks for Ubutnu (or other Linux OSes), please have people use the GUI that comes with those tips and tricks. Let’s the keep the terminal for us geeks.
Loving God, whose child our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that Christ may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Father-Mother in heaven, who at the baptism in the River Jordan proclaimed and anointed with the Holy Spirit, Jesus your beloved Child: Grant that all who are baptized into Jesus' name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess Christ as Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Child to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.