back to article The Reg guide to Linux, part 3

Linux has changed almost beyond recognition since version 1.0 in 1994 and Ubuntu is about as polished and professional as it gets. It's approaching the level of polish of Mac OS X, is faster and easier to install than Windows, includes a whole suite of apps and offers tens of thousands more, runs on cheap commodity hardware and …


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  1. Rogerborg

    Epic Goddamn Fail

    Why recommend Ubuntu because it's friendlier than Debian and then give a guide to setting up Debian?

    You're exhibiting the most annoying trait of Lunix git-wizards: the irresistible urge to show off that you've learned the painful old fashioned way to do it.

    As a way of filling up an article, it's a great strategy, but as a way of selling people on the benefits of Linux distros in general or Ubuntu in particular, it's FAIL.

    So far, everything that you've recommended could be boiled down to:

    Download ubuntu 10.04 32 bit

    Burn to CD


    Try the live CD version.

    When you're happy, click Install.

    Accept the defaults.

    Grow your wizard-beard.

    1. GettinSadda


      "So far, everything that you've recommended could be boiled down to:..."

      But then he wouldn't have got to publish a cool multi-part guide spread across several days

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      It's worse than that.

      The best distro for end users is actually Mint, not Ubuntu.

      I just installed Mint 9 as a test (into a Parallels VM; I already run a perfectly good *BSD-derived OS). Took just a few clicks. Easy as pie. No need to download additional codecs or jump through any hoops deliberately put in place by the FSF Taliban.

      THAT is how easy Linux *can* be, but you'd never guess it from this series of articles.

      The mere fact that Linux still appears to require a *three-part tutorial* to set it up shows just how much the politics behind the FSF have held it back. Articles like these are *part of the problem*, not the solution.

      The equivalent process for all of GNU / Linux's rivals consists of:

      (1) Buy (or be given) an off-the-shelf computer,

      (2) Take it home and plug it in,

      (3) Switch it on,

      (4) Er...

      (5) ... that's it.

      If you get an upgrade DVD—e.g. you've bought Windows 7 for your Windows XP box—the process is still piss-easy: insert DVD. Reboot PC if / when told to do so. Job done. OS X upgrade DVDs are much the same.

      (NOTE: Very, VERY occasionally something will go wrong, but that's no less true of GNU / Linux or any other OS. You don't get to cite such occurrences as a reason to switch.)

      There's no "Copy and paste this horrifically cryptic-looking *five-line* command into your Terminal!" crap either.

      If the puritans want to have their own "genetically pure" distros, they're more than welcome to do so, but that shouldn't stop others creating more pragmatic options for those users who couldn't give a gnat's chuff about Stallman, and who think "GNU" is some kind of weapon for dyslexics.

      Nor should these pragmatists get any stick for doing so. The kind of person who tells me to my face that I "shouldn't" use Software X is the kind of person I'll kick in the nadgers and defenestrate at the earliest opportunity. NOBODY gets to tell me I have to do *without* unless they can provide a bloody good reason. Tiresome, post-hippy, anti-corporate politics do not constitute "good reason".

      The vast majority of end users *couldn't care less* about the politics of Open Source and "Free" software. They just expect the magic box to do what they tell it to do.

      To sum up: the FSF Taliban can install Ubuntu. For everyone else, there's Mint. The article's author could have written just one article—with pictures, even—and saved a lot of people an awful lot of bother.

      1. Happy Camper
        Thumb Up

        You miss the point me thinks.

        "Off the shelf." Which means brand new hardware. Which means cost. Linux runs on old machines, making that old windows box last quite a few more years under ubuntu.

        In ten years of working in IT, I have never had an off the shelf PC that isn't bundled with crud from the seller (acers 14 pieces of software that do everything you want but have no idea if you need or actually can stop, so they just sit there greedily eating your files. Or HP and Dell that ship their recovery CD's so you actually find you 250GB hard drive is 120, that a partition of recovery exists and that you can't do a thing about it.) I also haven't seen a PC off the shelf that comes with all settings built in or bundled and valued copies of software for things like anti virus, anti spyware. What you actuall get is lots of pop up boxes that ask you to pay for things. Because it is all trial software.

        So what would you prefer, 5 lines of command or "trial software" and pop up boxes demanding cash with 14 apps you don't need or want chewing up resources?

        And the last upgrade DVD I was involved with. Well PC world said they shipped it with vista, just before win7 was released. 1 phone call was all it took. Not from PC world but from Acer, that call was to Germany. The DVD didn't arrive, so a second call was needed. When it did it was in a plain envelope from the Czech republic, took four weeks overall to arrive and used a foreign language to ask for it. When it arrived it didn't work with the acer 14 apps, too many partitions arguing. In the end a second complete install and a removal of all partitions just to get it to install and upgrade so it could work. All of this was expected to be done by an elderly relative that just wanted a new PC.

        Now how is that five command line looking?

      2. daemox

        Sorry bud, but you're mistaken. It's the US .gov not the FSF/GNU! :)

        Sean Timarco Baggaley,

        You seem to be miss-attributing the Free Software Federation (you know, the guys that have brought us GNU and the license which the Linux Kernel was released under) with the US Federal Government.

        Ubuntu is not a free operating system as per the FSF (free as in freedom, not as in beer). Even if it is installed with the "Free Software Only" option it still does not meet the FSF's, possibly draconian, standards. The reason Ubuntu doesn't have all the MP3, WMA, and other codecs out of the box is because it would be illegal for them to distribute those codecs in the United States (and others). This is again, thanks to the DMCA and other misguided bits of legislation.

        The same is true for your beloved Linux Mint, which does release a build similar to Ubuntu for just that reason (so it can be legally distributed in the United States). Aside from that, Linux Mint does lack some features out of the box that Ubuntu has, but that is mainly beside the point regarding your post above.

        While I definitely agree that the FSF/GNU (especially Stallman) can take things too far (dogmatically), I am hugely grateful that they exist as the good they do definitely far out ways the bad (and the bad can be easily side stepped by using distro's LIKE Ubuntu AND Linux Mint).

        So, dismiss them if you will, and miss-attribute legal issues to them, but that seems a bit misguided and narrow minded to me.

        Cheers man!

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      At least he pointed out...

      ...the teeny tiny issue of the Windows built-in CD writing software being unable to deal with a .iso file. This could be an issue for those who aren't really familiar with their computer who may follow your instructions thusly:

      Download ubuntu <version#>

      Burn to CD


      Windows appears, I guess ubuntu is broken or something... when in fact it was the CD writing software at fault.

  2. Chika

    Ah, a totally unbiased opinion!

    This guide seems to have been brought to you by Canonical.

    Linux Is Not Ubuntu.

    1. dirk_diggler

      It kind of is though

      Like it or not, Ubuntu is ubiquitous with desktop Linux.

    2. Ray 11
      Thumb Down

      They know Linux is not Ubuntu

      If you had bothered to read the rest of the articles in the series you would know they introduced all the major distros with pros and cons for the first time Linux user. If you are trying to get a Linux first timer to try installing Linux, Ubuntu is a great place to start.

      It is this kind of whining and infighting (my distro is the real Linux) that makes MS and Apple smile and helps to hold Linux back.

    3. James Hughes 1

      Canonical or not`

      At least its an article designed to help get people working with Linux (specifically Ubuntu).

      Have you ever written one? Or do you only ever write FAIL comments?

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Linux as an acronym

      Shouldn't that be "Linux Is Not Ubuntu <something beginning with X>"

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Linux Is Not Ubuntu, Xtupid?

        Still sounds right...

        Coat, taxi, etc.

    5. Adam Salisbury

      Ubuntu is not Linux

      But it is the most likely distro go gain mainstream traction as it requires the least configuration to perform all the average users' functions.

      Remember, the vast majority of computer users neither care how they work nor have the inclination to pursue lengthy customisations and that, had you been paying attention was the point of the article.

    6. Martin Owens

      Yes we Know

      Linux isn't an OS while Ubuntu is an OS. Linux has the unfortunate trait of being only a kernel and nothing more.

      Of course we don't have a generic name for the set of tools we've built up, but I know I aint going to be calling it Gnu and I aint going to be calling it Linux, both those idiots have had their egos stroked enough to forget the piles and piles of input from the rest of the community.

  3. petur

    FAIL indeed

    So you want to convert people to Ubuntu, yet start throwing commandline stuff around that is totally unnecessary. What the hell did they invent the Software Center for?


      Overblown fear of the shell

      > So you want to convert people to Ubuntu, yet start throwing commandline stuff around

      > that is totally unnecessary. What the hell did they invent the Software Center for?

      Type "this" is a lot more direct and to the point than trying to describe a bunch of steps in a GUI.

      Even this "hard way" is not the worst possible option between Linux, Windows or MacOS.

      It's simply "scary". Certainly people spend a lot of time scaring the end users and convincing them that everything is too difficult for them to deal with.

      1. Otto von Humpenstumpf

        Average users are scared!

        This is exactly the point: command line stuff scares people away *in droves*.

        So called (and mostly self-appointed) Linux "evangelists" continuously gripe and whinge about the dominance of Windows and how Linux is so much better and open and god-knows-what-else, and that people would switch to Linux in a heartbeat if they only tried it.

        What none of these people get into therir heads is that

        1. most people simply have no desire nor the time to invest in learn a new operating system

        2. a lot of people (if not the majority) are NOT geeks. Linux-heads are so isolated from the real world that they can barely comprehend how little the average user knows about operating systems. This kind of user sees a command line and panics. Typing some cryptic commands that they'd have to write down to remember is bound to end in tears.

        Lets be clear here: I'm not dissing these users -- they may not be able to install a device driver or edit the registry in Windows, but they tend to be highly skilled using the applications they work with on a daily basis, like Excel, Word, Photshop, etc. Which is usually all they want.

        The ones I *am* dissing are the Linux -geeks who bemoan the low acceptance of Linux, but at the same time are completely unaware that concepts like "usability" and "user experience" even exist, much less that they will have to embrace them.

        The day there's a distro that doesn't come with a shell is the day Linux is ready for prime time.

        Oh, and where's the "penguin with horns" icon?

        1. daemox
          IT Angle

          You're right, but....

          Love and agree with your post, right up to the "The day there's a distro that doesn't come with a shell is the day Linux is ready for prime time."

          Maybe I misunderstood you, but the way to improve Linux isn't by removing features that are already there. The way to make it more user friendly is by (what Canonical/Ubuntu are doing) adding and supplementing the already power-house, power-user features with super easy GUI utilities like the Ubuntu Software Center.

          Aside from that, you're dead on. Most "linux-heads" (of which I am an aspiring one) don't seem to have ever worked with your average computer user. Coming from a tech support and it background, it definitely gives one a different perspective.

          To that point, as much as I love Linux and Ubuntu, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is the first release that I am comfortable recommending for general use to friends and family. And, even still there are caveats (like no easy blu-ray, not full Ipod support), but the same can be said for most anything in life and I try to steer people toward technogies that while still functional are better supportive of Linux and vice versa.


        2. cosmogoblin
          Gates Horns

          Advertising, not fear

          Windows is no better, in terms of usability. I recently installed Windows 7, and more recently, Linux Mint. It took me longer to switch from XP to 7 than to learn Linux.

          Windows has just as much scary stuff, and although MS try to hide the inner workings of your computer, they do so erratically, and at the expense of usability (usability != user-friendliness). They're both good and bad in different ways, although Linux has the edge re security and cost.

          The problem with Linux compared to Windows - and the one point which makes it VASTLY inferior - is advertising. Microsoft spend billions on advertising, marketing, FUD, pushing their software to government departments, etc, and get many times this amount back by continuing to dominate the market.

          Linux, on the other hand, is free (ultra-specialist distros aside). Nobody in the Linux community is able to fight Microsoft's marketing muscle power, and so nobody goes to PC World and says "I saw Ubuntu advertised on TV last night, is it really as good as it looks?"

    2. Freddie


      I do agree with you to a certain degree, but it's a damn sight easier for the article to say "copy and paste this into a terminal ..." than "click menu item one, click menu item two. On the dialogue that opens, select the 'I'm bored now' tab". Horses for courses.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: FAIL indeed

      christ, what could be easier than copy/pasting 5 commands into what is essentially a text box?

      if you can't manage that, someone really ought to replace your computer with a more age appropriate toy.

      It's not like you'd even have to read or understand the commands you're copying*... and in that respect it boils down to a set of clicks that is substantially easier than navigating a GUI. "no click THERE, not there, no there! See the icon that looks a little bit like a unicorn's vagina? It's 5 icons down from that one"

      * obviously you SHOULD read and understand the commands... but if you're a newbie copying them off The Register then you can be forgiven for not doing so.

  4. Ray 11

    Percentage Fail

    1 Billion PCs of which 12 Million Ubuntu Machines (Assuming US billion of 1000000000)

    = 12 000 000 / 1 000 000 000

    = 0.0012

    = 1.2 %

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Percentage Fail Fail

      Epic maths fail

      = 0.0012

      != 1.2 %

      100% = 1.00

      1% = 0.01

      1.2% = 0.012

      0.12% = 0.012

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Self deprecating fail

        Last line of my post should have read

        0.12% = 0.0012

        I shall now hit myself with a casio fx102.

        1. Chemist

          Re : Percentage Fail

          Oh good grief !



    2. dogged

      Mathematics fail

      No it isn't.

    3. mccp

      Back to school Ray 11

      1.2% == 1.2 / 100 == 0.012

      0.0012 == 1.2 / 1000 == 0.12%

      You need a calculator.

    4. Victor Ludorum

      Not the mathematics FAIL you think

      It's only the middle line that's wrong.

      12 000 000 / 1 000 000 000 = 0.012 = 1.2%

      Ner ner ner-ner-ner.


      Mine's the one with the solar powered Casio calculator in the pocket. Works a treat in all this sunshine...

    5. Ray 11

      Typo Fail

      Sorry for the typo of 0.0012 instead of 0.012 but the final result was still correct, 1.2%

  5. Lionel Baden

    wanna boost the amount of users

    I would use it.

    But im a gamer.

    Tell me you can get steam and all steam games inc l4d bc2 burnout paradise and a plethora of other games working perfectly without hours of hassle.

    Then I will happily switch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      if you want that with no hassle

      buy a xbox360

      1. Lionel Baden

        your comment disgusts me :p

        I detest consoles and would never buy one.

        The very idea that i have to rebuy games just to get a better system pisses me off alot.

        I still enjoy going back playing old games e.g. defcon Css etc etc

        If i was a console player i would either have to keep all of my old consoles and games or rebuy the game !!

        PC is the most price effective way to game and mostly hassle free. the only issue is that you cant really game on a pc from the sofa ... which is probably better i would spill my beer way more often !!

    2. kissingthecarpet

      Steam is coming to Linux

      Steam & (AFAIK) associated games are being or have been ported to GNU/Linux. I think the release is imminent

    3. sisk


      There is a Linux version of Steam, and from what I understand they're working on adding support for more games.

      Regardless if you're a hardcore gamer you should stick with Windows. As much as I love Linux it's not the best system for everyone.

    4. Captain Thyratron

      A circular problem?

      You make a fine demonstration of how this sort of thing goes.

      Likely, you complain not infrequently about this shortcoming or that about Windows but, as soon as the subject of another platform arises, your priorities become apparent. Games are less common on non-Windows platforms because there is less of a market because games are less common on non-Windows platforms because there is less of a market because games are less common on non-Windows platforms because...

      If games alone drove the OS market, Microsoft might be well and truly invincible as long as Windows is capable of running a graphics-intensive game for at least a day. (Then again, if games alone drove the OS market, Microsoft itself might have perished quietly during the 1980s and we might all be using AmigaOS or BeOS or something likewise designed to be good at the sort of things games require.)

      Thus, a person who identifies himself as a gamer may complain about Windows while vigorously defending the status quo. His powerful aversion to any inconvenience in the short term and reluctance to depart from the herd--lest he miss something--ensures that he will be bound to a platform he may despise almost categorically (or maybe he really does love Windows and goes about trying to share the Kool-Aid with his friends, but that's far less common because it usually means finding more to like about Windows than the development benefits of popularity), save for its support for games, for the forseeable future. If it crashed every three days because of some gory drunken car accident of API design*, phoned home without his permission*, and accidentally deleted his files sometimes for no good reason*, he'd probably still use it and he'd probably still attack other platforms for their comparative paucity of high-profile games, even if they were to beat Windows categorically on reliability, security, and cost, and even if the only regard in which they were harder to use than Windows was that they didn't behave exactly the same (thus, that people raised in the Wintel monoculture found anything different "too hard for the average Joe"), because his first priority is playing games. Really, that's up to him and is entirely his prerogative, but sometimes he seems to go out of his way to trap himself in an unpleasant place on account of it.

      Now, as other folks have pointed out, some game development is beginning to target platforms such as Linux (Mac OS X already has a substantial amount of game development, if I remember well) because there is now sufficient user base--no thanks to self-proclaimed "gamers", by and large, but thanks to people more concerned with the other ninety-eight percent of computing who, on occasion, simply might like to play a game and who, for the sake of that other ninety-eight percent of computing, are willing to try something new and willing to admit that, sometimes, "good enough" isn't good enough.

      I don't mean to defend Linux, mind you. I really don't and, in fact, I'd rather not. Please don't get that idea.

      *Not unheard of in Windows.

      1. Lionel Baden

        @Capt 'n

        its not all about drinking cool aid and being in the gang

        Regardless of how much my mates bang on about WOW i dont really like it or want to like it.

        Same goes for consoles getting releases earlier than PC i wont switch just to be In the crowd.

        Have you played TF2 with Mac users ?? Its just F'ing LOL. Noob is just not a sufficient word, And this is comming from somebody who is not very good at TF2 .....

        I dont mind Mac's being able to game with PC users but at the same time dont feel that they fit in quite right. square in a round hole etc etc

        in regards to MS dominating the scene in the 80's although other platforms were mainly game based the world of gaming has become more widespread. It is a normal for a father of 29 to be playing games in the eveing whereas in the 80's this was not the Norm (dont bother flaming that you gamed i wore abstestos today)

        But in the end i would switch to linux even just out of curiosity and re-download hundreds of gigs worth of games If only i knew they would work.

        I think today alot of young home users will base their decision of what OS to use with gaming being a major factor. although not the only factor.

        i like windows and i marvel at what it can do. e.g. run multiple hardware setups generally rather well and stable, for your average user.

      2. daemox

        I think I'm in love.

        See above.

    5. Anonymous Coward


      Nuff said.

      Or you could try CrossOver Games.

      The adventurous will even try to run games using the stock Wine package, with varying results.

      Tux. Because this is a Linux article.

    6. The Original Ash
      Thumb Down

      I switched, and I'm a gamer

      Quite simply, I wish I'd bought Windows 7. I love everything about Ubuntu, except game support.

      Games don't run, people don't swap to Linux. People don't swap to Linux, games aren't written with Linux in mind. Vicious circle.

    7. daemox
      Thumb Up

      Steam Coming to GNU/Linux (Ubuntu) ETA End of Summer 2010 (this year!)

      Funny you should ask. Valve is releasing Steam under GNU/Linux with a current ETA of end of Summer 2010. Linux will be a first tier system which means it will be receiving the same support and development as Windows and OS X. Third parties are already planning on releasing some games. It'll definitely be a while before they all come over, but all the new stuff and all the main stuff like HL2, CS:S, TF2 will be there at launch (everything that's available currently on OS X, and possibly more by the time it launches on GNU/Linux).

      See here for more information:

      Cheers, hope you'll keep your word! :D

  6. johnnytruant

    while I applaud the sentiment

    directing new users straight to the command line is perhaps not the best way to cure people of The Windows.

    1. Captain Thyratron


      Especially if they don't actually need to do that in order for the thing to work.

  7. James Hughes 1

    Or, more easily

    To get DVD playing...(from Ubuntu website

    Ubuntu 9.04, 9.10 and 10.04 (i386, amd64)

    To Install the libdvdread4 package (no need to add third party repositories) via Synaptic or command line:

    sudo apt-get install libdvdread4

    * Then open a terminal window and execute:

    sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

    * Rebooting may be necessary.

    1. Martin Owens

      Already installed

      If you installed ubuntu-restricted-extras from the Ubuntu Software Center, then you'd have libdvdread4 installed already.

      So all you really need to do is run that script at the end there.

      Rebooting isn't required.

  8. Matt 21

    I don't get it

    I installed Ubuntu and could immediately play MP3s. I didn't and don't use the command line and found installing and updating easy.

    Also: You can run downloadable programs from the command line, it's just not a good idea and they're not common, oh and unless you use sudo they'd not run as root.

    You can download program install packages directly from web-sites as well. NX nomachine is a good example.

    Perhaps I mis-read but you seem to make a simple no command line procedure into a bit of a gong and dance.

  9. Cubist Castle

    Not really true

    "So if you download a file off a website – even a special Linux program – you can't run it by double-clicking it, nor even from the command line." That's misleading. You can do both of those things with certain downloads. Firefox, some games, shell scripts...

    1. sisk

      No you can't

      Everything downloads with read only permissions. Unless Ubuntu is set up to bypass that (which is possible but not considered a good idea by most of the Linux community) you'll have to chmod it first.

      1. Penguin herder
        Gates Horns

        Yes, but...

        chmod is a terminal-centric view of it. Don't get me wrong, terminals are great (I have two lurking in my task bar as I type), but for the scenario you describe, I would probably go to Firefox's downloads list, right click, Open Containing Folder and then right click the download to change it properties and make the change there. It's a lot of clicking, but still less trouble than cd to the location, probably ls to get the file name, copy, type chmod, paste, etc. I'm sick of Microsoft's market churning, but I'm not allergic to user friendly stuff.

        1. sisk

          That works

          That's basically a GUI frontend approach to chmod so it works to.

          Really I hadn't thought of that. Honestly between my typing speed and shortcuts I have set up I can usually have chmod +x ~/downloads/whatever&&~/downloads/whatever punched into a teminal in about a quarter of the time it would take me to do it in a GUI.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    actually it's even easier

    Actually, Ubuntu is much friendlier than detailed in this article. The latest distro will help you to install things like MP3 and flash support as soon as soon as it needs to.

    For example, install Ubuntu and try to play an MP3 - a message pops up telling you it needs the codec and to click OK to install it - job done.

    Same with flash, visit a site that requires flash, a popup appears allowing you to install it with a single click.

    Even if you would like to install all the extras straight away it's a case of opening the software center (similar to the app store on iphone), search for flash, or whatever you need and click "install".

    1. Lionel Baden
      IT Angle


      isnt that why people hate windows ???

    2. Irné Barnard
      Thumb Down


      This install how-to is actually going to stop most (if not all) non-techy's from even trying Ubuntu. Why in all that's holy do you think a revert back to the 70's command line user interface is an "EASY" way of installing additional programs?

      Ubuntu (even the older versions - I've still got 8 on my laptop) has an extremely decent graphical interface for searching, updating & installing all those packages available through that sudo, apt-get, wget, etc. etc. etc.

      You open it, tell it to update its list (or not), you're asked for the admin password if your settings state such. Uhm, that's Open the console and type:

      sudo apt-get update

      Use the search field to type something about what you're looking for. It shows a list of the matching applications. If you click on one it shows a description about what it actually does. If you can't find it add the restricted groups to the search, I've found very few (if any) searches finding nothing whatsoever. Now how exactly do you do this through the console? Or do you need to do some googling instead? Or go to the forums? WTF?

      After you've found an acceptable package. Tick it & click the install button. How is that more difficult than typing: sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras icedtea6-plugin

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Epic package fail

    I do realize that this article series is targeted to those not familiar with Linux (although still I'm rather dissapointed, come on el Reg, you can be more technical - we're not children), but your assertion that APT is superior to RPM doesn't even make any sense. One could compare dpkg (the actual packaging system used by APT) and RPM, but really, no virtually no one uses RPM directly, just as it is unlikely one would use dpkg directly. So a more relevant comparison would be APT vs yum vs urpmi and so on - and even then, it wouldn't hurt if you would say why APT is better than the alternatives. No really, I'd like to know. I don't use either at the moment, but as far as I can tell, they all resolve dependencies and have various GUI frontends in addition to CLI usage. So what makes APT so great?

    But in a similiar fashion I'll simply conclude that pacman is superior to all the alternatives combined - I could offer reasons why, but why bother.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dont show up...

    because Linux users are generally more savvy, so they know how to hide their net presence.

  13. Hedley Phillips

    So how do I do this in the GUI?

    All this command line nonsense is all very well for those black T-shirt wearing pizza eaters I try not to associate with, but you have just told me how easy this OS is and then proceed to give pages of commands to enter into the terminal.

    How do I install mp3 support from the GUI?

    NOTE: Before those Pizza munchers throw their hands in the air with horror, I am more than happy on the command line and have been running Ubuntu Netbook remix on my N110 for months now, I just think this article is a little strange as it states one thing then goes to describe the opposite. ;-)


      You don't sound like a genuine Ubuntu user.

      > How do I install mp3 support from the GUI?


      > NOTE: Before those Pizza munchers throw their hands in the air with horror, I am more

      > than happy on the command line and have been running Ubuntu Netbook remix on my

      > N110 for months now, I just think this article is a little

      Really? Then you should know that Ubuntu does this sort of thing "automagically".

      It's really only the things with a potential legal problem (DMCA) in some jurisdictions that require some form of command line futzing in Ubuntu.

      That's the beauty of automation (apt-get) and an "apps store" approach to installing software that predates the "app store" by about 10 years.

    2. Frits Daalmans
      Big Brother

      Legally not a good idea to put it in GUI

      Please, try to imagine what would happen to Canonical or any other Linux packager if they have a big shiny button on the GUI saying "Click this to install all software that is *ILLEGAL* to use in the USA due to DMCA law and soon other countries due to ACTA treaty"?

      You're not supposed to play DVD's on your computer without special (paid) permission, didn't what happened to DVD-Jon teach you this? Read this:

  14. Cerbus

    An introduction?

    For an article hyping the polish of Ubuntu why does it give a command line way to install restricted extras? Why not mention the Ubuntu Software Centre? It strikes as just a tad friendlier to people new to Linux.

  15. Stewart Knight


    All this is well and good, but I would have liked to see a guide to installing av on a Linux distro!

    1. johnnytruant

      sure thing

      Search synaptic for "clamav"

      Click "Mark for installation"

      Click "Apply"

  16. Anonymous Coward

    @ Ray 11

    No, you percentage fail.

    12 000 000 / 1 000 000 000

    = 0.012

    = 1.2 %

  17. spegru

    Maybe I'm going soft

    but these days, all I do is install Linux Mint (Ubuntu based). From then on it either works straight away or it hlpfully suggests it needs to go and get something from the internet - which it thjen does seamlessly - and it just works. In fact I'm glad of the codec problems I used to have to solve as it taught me something about how OSs work, but right now it's just unnecessary.

    Although I've not really used Ubuntu 10.04 myself, my non-geek son does, and as far as I can tell it does pretty much the same thing anyway (maybe more codec downloading was needed in the beginning?, not sure)

    Oh yes and another thing. All this apt-get command line business is not for the faint hearted. Why the heck didnt you just advise the use of Software Centre or Package management? You know, searchg for the type of thing you want, tick it and select apply? Much easier than visiting PC world that's for sure! Just tell em that it's like an App Store - they'll quickly get the idea!

  18. John Sanders

    Congrats "el Reg"

    I for one congrats the Register for publishing this, as some people have pointed out there are some imprecisions on the article series, but on my opinion they're minor flaws.

    The point is: Try Linux out, you may find it is not the monster some say it is, and it may even suit your needs pretty well. If you do not like it, at least you did not spend a penny and probably you did learn something new.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    but of course !!!!

    sudo apt-get update

    sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

    sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras icedtea6-plugin

    sudo wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list$(lsb_release -cs).list && sudo apt-get --quiet update && sudo apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get --quiet update

    sudo apt-get install app-install-data-medibuntu apport-hooks-medibuntu libdvdcss2 w32codecs

    Yes thats so much easier than Windows, I wonder why i didn't see it before........

    Sighs with head in hands and goes back to Windows


      Shiny happiness doesn't really help so much

      > sudo apt-get install app-install-data-medibuntu apport-hooks-medibuntu libdvdcss2 w32codecs


      > Yes thats so much easier than Windows, I wonder why i didn't see it before........


      > Sighs with head in hands and goes back to Windows

      It's actually dramatically easier than Windows.

      It just looks intimidating.

      Knowing what you need and where to find it is usually the more interesting problem.

      1. Captain Thyratron

        Problematic by assertion?

        It matters more whether people think something is difficult than whether it actually is. If a thing merely gives the impression of requiring thought, it'll tend to scare the living crap out of people, even if ostensibly ordinary and mundane things they do on a daily basis are actually more difficult and thought-intensive.

      2. Otto von Humpenstumpf
        Thumb Down

        Linux ccommand line fail

        > "It's actually dramatically easier than Windows."

        Imagine a Windows user who whats to give Ubuntu a try without the benefit of having read this article that list the commands. How and where exactly would they manage? This is an EPIC fail and you know it. You might not want to admit it, but that's a different story.

        > "It just looks intimidating."

        If it looks intimidating, it is. Which is why Linux fails as an OS alternative to Windows.

        > "Knowing what you need and where to find it is usually the more interesting problem."

        Unfortunately, it's not a problem that the average user is interested in solving. Most people use computers to *get work done*, rather than fiddling with the o/s and buggering about with shell scripts.

    2. sisk

      Let's compare

      You could do it in the GUI, but as is generally the case (even in Windows) the CLI is quicker.

      But let's look at the equivalent process under Windows:

      Hit (a rather tedious process by comparison already)

      Find a non-MS program and hit it's website. Download the update. Install the update. Repeat for every single program on your computer.

      Time to run that scarey command line: 30 seconds (maybe ten minutes if you watch it do its automated goodness)

      Time for the Windows equivalent: An hour...if you're lucky.

      1. PsychicMonkey
        Gates Halo


        you let the software update itself, as most do these days.

        I tried ubuntu for a while on my mediacentre, played with mythbuntu as well. They just couldn't compare with XP running media portal. Thats why I went back.

        I'll try again in a few years, but I'm not hopeful.

    3. Michael Thibault

      but of course it's a little more complicated than that


      'sudo apt-get install app-install-data-medibuntu apport-hooks-medibuntu libdvdcss2 w32codecs'

      Yes thats so much easier than Windows, I wonder why i didn't see it before........

      Sighs with head in hands and goes back to Windows"

      All that is required of the user in the example given is Copy and Paste, which could not possibly be easier. Except perhaps finding the apostrophe on your keyboard. Of course, if you're aware of 'keyboard accelerators' or "Command-key equivalents', and you have familiarized yourself with those relevant to the new context, all of the copying and pasting can be done from the keyboard without accessing a menu.

      There's a world of difference between 'what' you have to copy and paste and the 'how' of it; you seem to be equating the apparent visual complexity of the content with the complexity of the task of copying it and pasting that text - not at all the same thing.

      Btw, I'm not a linux zealot - rabid or otherwise; my linux ambivalence is about to enter puberty.

      One thing that the more zealous types (necessarily have to) gloss over is the appalling signal-to-noise ratio in the linux fora... But that ratio is a different story - much too far afield - and one that turns on the original culture of converts-to-linux. *cough*

    4. Penguin herder

      It *is* easier than Windows

      Let's start with bare hardware and install disks, you with Windows, me with just about any distribution's live cd. I will have a working system patched and doing everything I want (and nothing I don't) in far less time than you can get off the ground with Windows.

      Another critical point is that once you learn how to write shell scripts, you can copy/paste and save things like you find distressing so that you can apply them to any Linux box you want to configure. The days of Windows being easier to use than Linux are behind us.

    5. wolfen69

      go back to windows, moron

      Yeah, all those commands are SO difficult to copy and paste. I can do it in seconds without having to search the web for codecs packs. I can set up a linux much faster than windows. It's people like you that need a big, proprietary company like MS to tell them what to do, and how to do it. Do us all a favor and stay with windows, idiot.

  20. markfiend

    If you want ultimate noob-friendly Linux...'d have done a guide to installing Mint.

    Mint comes with mp3, flash, DVD support all preinstalled.

  21. Asphy

    I have to agree with some of these points.

    Whilst I'm all for getting new people into the Linux swing, and completely agree that it's good to know how to do things the command line way, dropping the poor buggers to a terminal shortly after install probably wont win them over. That's only made worse by the fact that there are purpose built and user friendly graphical tools there for just this moment.

    Good job on the "Linux doesn't work like Windows" part though, trying to get a windows user's head around the concept of package management can be half the struggle sometimes.

  22. Ocular Sinister


    Its tutorials like this that keep people thinking that you have to do everything from the command line in Linux :-| Why couldn't you have taken a few screen shots of the Ubuntu package manager (a while since I used Ubuntu.... can't remember what its called!)

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Will have Windows and Mac users rolling in the aisles...

    All that command-line stuff will not help convert one single user to Linux. The fact that this article runs to two pages to explain how to do the most Mickey Mouse of activities will have Microsoft marketing men high-fiving each other in to the middle of next month.


    Not all Linuxes require you to sod about with the command line. For example, if you're using openSUSE, you can install all the restricted formats with one (yes, one) single click:

    Apologies for posting an advert for openSUSE to your advert for Ubuntu. Bad form!

    The trouble with Linux people is that they're too bloody busy showing off how clever they are and lose sight of the fact that Linux is just a thing to get stuff done. Why not write some articles that show Linux is *easy* rather than akin to changing a tyre blindfold whilst driving at 90mph up the M6 in the rain?

    Of course not, because that would deny you the opportunity to engage in a bit of willy waving, wouldn't it?

    1. sisk

      You missed the point

      The command line is easier and quicker than the GUI most of the time once you learn to use it. That's true even in Windows. As the article stated there are multiple GUIs available, but using them takes 3 times longer. For this reason the CLI is the best way to do what they're showing.

      1. Penguin herder

        GUIs have their uses

        Command lines are a great way to do a lot all at once, such as installing several packages needed to compile a big project. I went through that with a dynamic language vm not long ago: needed to hack a couple of lines to get some tracing information to debug a stubborn problem. It would have been a real pain to use a GUI package manager rather than simply pasting a bunch of apt-get incantations into a terminal.

        **BUT** when trying to free someone from The Matrix (make that Windows), give them the red pill and guide them toward the GUI tools first. When they start to grumble, then show them the terminal.

      2. The Other Steve

        No, you missed the point

        "The command line is easier and quicker than the GUI most of the time once you learn to use it"

        Like most stupid things people say into the internets, that sentence contains the seeds of it's own destruction, "once you learn to use it".

        You won't get any argument from me over the power of a command line, I refused to use Macs for many years due to their lack of one, but there's an associated learning curve that simply doesn't exist when using a GUI based around the now familiar desktop metaphor.

        "GUIs available, but using them takes 3 times longer. For this reason the CLI is the best way to do what they're showing."

        Fastest and best are not (or ought not to be) the goal when introducing noobs to linux. Easy for new users to process and understand should be the goal.

        Encouraging people to paste arbitrary cryptic shit into their CLI without understanding it is not only unhelpful in this sense, it is actively dangerous since generally two or three posts into a forum thread some arrogant asshat who has conveniently forgotten what it's like to learn new stuff (perhaps after quoting the dismally up its own bum "how to be properly grovelling to leet dudeZ" arse wash from ESR) will suggest that the problem can be resolved by typing "sudo rm -rf /*"

        Ho ho fucking ho.

    2. Duncan Robertson 1

      Here here!

      I wholeheartedly agree mate!

      The article concentrates on Ubuntu, which is a mistake. An article needs to be written showing why people choose Linux over Windows and why having a plethora of distros to choose from is good. Why is it good? Well, each distro has its strengths and weaknesses. Use RedHat/Centos for Server, Vector/antiX for small footprint, etc.

      After this has been done, an article on how to do the basic things that one might want to use RedHat/Centos for e.g. mail server, web server, game server, etc. Then one on what you might want to use a small foot print for e.g. my personal project is turning an old PIII600 into a music jukebox.

      After all this is done (and you could go through a raft of distros/applications), you show that Linux is a good thing. A fully configurable, does what it says on the tin OS without the difficult to get rid of general purpose apps and services comprising Windows.

      Maybe then, the "black t-shirt wearing pizza munchers" as one poster put it would be gob smacked rather than waving their willy's around and scoring points off each other like some kind of D&D role play...

      To make it clear, I love COMPUTING. I use a range of OSes both for personal and work life. I do not subscribe to a single OS because each OS has its uses and strengths - even Windows!!

      1. The BigYin


        Choice it the problem. That's why Apple and Windows win. There is no choice. The lack of choice makes things easy.

        Sound mad? What choice is there with windows? Home/Premium/Pro? Only 3 things to think about.

        Apple? OS X. Only one thing to thing about.

        Linux? Oh dear got, where doe it being? How many respins of Ubuntu are there? 16? And that's ONE DISTRO! No wonder peeps are confused!

        Choice is good, but too much choice is confusing for newbs and makes them say "Sod it, I'll go Apple as that's just easier" (or whatever).

        1. Captain Thyratron


          I hear more people imagining this "problem" than actually complaining about it in earnest.

          I'll take that pesky choice if you don't want it.

        2. John Bailey

          If you value your sanity

          As someone far wittier than I once said..

          "Knife.. Fork.. Aargh.... "

  24. kissingthecarpet

    How very,very true

    I quote "APT, is the best, ... It makes Control Panel | Add and Remove Programs look like a sharpened rock tied to a stick."

    I LOL'd.

    Debian FTW

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sharpened rock can be useful

      Control Panel's Add/Remove programs has never come up with a failure to install because the 'package' depends on both craplib ver 1.2 and craplib ver 1.4 or newer. How do these things even get onto the suppository or repository or whatever it is called? And why do the powers that be at Canonical then jerk around and spend 85000 times as long arguing about what priority the fix is rather than simply getting it sorted out.

      The package this happened on was the openBVE rail simulator which was unavailable for over a year because of this conflict. Alternatively a quick download and install for Windows was an absolute breeze. Then again, I suppose the author of this article would suggest that I should have worked around the problem in Ubuntu by using a slick of (p)s(e)udo commands to download the source code and a few compilers and libraries and all the other bits and bobs and build the thing from scratch.

      I've probably given the impression that I'm a Linux hater which is not the case. Possibly a Ubuntu hater because I've found it the most frustrating distro in that it always promises so much and installs easily and works well...until you hit the show stopper (usually wifi drivers for me). Even the old slackware distro that used some 40-odd floppy disks never used to cause as much grief. I haven't given up on Linux, but I think I'll be sticking to OpenSUSE for the foreseeable future and I'll also be hanging on to Windows for those occasions where it just makes more sense.

      And the sharpened rock on a stick? Use it to knock some sense into the maintainers of Umbongo.

      1. Captain Thyratron

        If only it were a sharp rock tied to a stick.

        Indeed! Instead, I've just seen it fail to install or uninstall something for reasons it simply refused to tell me, and I had to go into the registry editor to finish the job myself. A common accusation against Unix is that you have to "drop down into a command line" to fix things. For every case of this, there's an analogue in Windows involving the registry editor (or, more likely, a case where this would be the solution if only the user knew; instead, the user gives up and learns to live with the failure. "Yeah, sometimes the check-boxes get turned at a funny angle. It still seems to work, though."*) Just change the value of this key to some other unintelligble gibberish--don't bother asking why, because nobody's translated that part of the Pnakotic manuscripts yet. Oh, and make sure you don't make a single mistake, or you might need to reinstall Windows. Now aren't you glad you have that instead of a well-designed command line environment with things like man pages? And I still don't know how to get the start menu to simply display without Windows having to search every item in it each time I log in, or whatever the hell it's doing. I hate that horrid flashlight!

        I guess "something failed" is less scary to some folks than "something failed and here's why". It would be nice if Add/Remove Programs were as straightforward as a sharpened rock tied to a stick; those have simple, easily diagnosed failure modes and are easy to repair. Windows has this troublesome opacity about it, as though Microsoft wished that users simply regard computers as magic. Nuts to making it transparent and sufficiently easy to understand enough about it that maybe, just maybe, you can actually fix the damn thing instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping the mysterious evil spirit in your computer departs when your reboot it. Couldn't Microsoft at least hide a good command-line environment (and some good non-graphical administration tools somewhere)? The one it's got is lousy--even DCL in an ancient install of VMS 5 makes cmd.exe and its anemic system administration facilities look like the command-line analogue of a third-world country where toilets haven't been invented yet--and, while Powershell looks like a cute .NET interpreter, it makes about as much sense as using IRB or the Python interpreter as a shell (excepting that either of those would be a more comfortable shell than Powershell.)

        I will agree, however, that sometimes packages have totally stupid dependencies; mostly, though, I blame lazy developers for that (though, most likely, Windows application software has the same problem multiplied by the size of its developer base and amplified by an API with functions that routinely take more arguments than non-mutants have fingers.) You know--the kind who make a configure script that's over a megabyte in size that checks three times for the same dependency, finds it all three times, and then never puts it in the makefile, so make barfs and claims that that dependency is nowhere to be found. That's really not the OS's fault, and is probably not any package distribution system's fault either. If that example sounds awfully specific, there's a reason for it.

        At least you'll probably get to see what went wrong, though. If it were Windows you'd get a neat little box on your desktop with white X in a red circle or an exclamation point in a yellow triangle and some uselessly cryptic six or seven words to tell you no more than that the damn thing doesn't work. However, that hides all the scary "technical" stuff from the user, so he'll just shrug and get to thinking that's normal (possibly while he complains about how scary Unix environments are and how much more productive he is in Windows.)

        * I really wish I were making that up. The arrows on the drop-down menus were tilted, too. I had honestly not known that such a failure was even possible--surely someone had to put a fair bit of engineering into making sure that it even *could* fail like that. Whoever was behind this is not simply incompetent, but surely mad.

  25. Anonymous Coward



    It's *Switch User* not super user.

    You can sudo as any user you want so long as you are set up right in the sudoer's file.


    1. Captain Thyratron


      Aye, just as su can su to any user, sudo can sudo things as any user--not just root.

  26. Seret

    Better package

    Since you're telling people to connect up to Medibuntu anyway, it's be easier to just tell thel to install:


    That way they automatically get the right version of either w32 or w64codecs (plus all the restricted extras goodies)

  27. J 3

    Lazy much?

    Come on!? I'm reading this, and thinking "yeah, nice description of the package management ease of use, and the graphical goodness of it".

    Then it suddenly becomes yet another stupid lazy Internet tutorial like the multitudes that you can find on Google, full of command line stuff, because it's easier to write. Aren't they paying the reviewers enough to take a few screen shots and add them to the text, really? I know, describing "click here", "then click there", "then search" (and adding all the accompanying screen shots) is boring and all that, but someone has got to do it.

    Teach them to do it the NEWBIE way first, FFS. Then, later, when they are comfortable with the whole concept, MAYBE then introduce them to the command line tools. If there is no alternative.

    (Disclaimer: I myself work on the Linux command line all day long -- except for the web browsing parts and the like, of course -- and I love its boundless power compared to graphical tools for us running scientific applications. So it's not a case of being bitter about the command line at all. It's just that if most users out there had ever seen something like Synaptic in action, wiping the floor with Windows and OS X software installation routines, they would never believe. And you continue not to show them.)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @johnnytruant et al

    "while I applaud the sentiment #

    directing new users straight to the command line is perhaps not the best way to cure people of The Windows."

    However this is El Reg, not some place for normal people.

    This article is aimed at people like me - I am tech savvy but I cannot be arsed with linux. I need Windows for work purposes so linux needs to be simple and easy. I try a different distro every 18 months or so and if I can't use wireless, watch video, listen to music and browse the intertubes after a few hours I give up and go back to windows. So far I have always given up.

    I actually fit into the description given at the start. With these instructions I am about to have another go - in a VM but that is because I am curious, not stupid. Copying and pasting 5 lines of code doesn't frighten me.

  29. Anonymous Coward


    Yeah - it's so much easier for a user to drop to a terminal, browse to this site, type in various commands, copy & paste etc.

    Or just browse to the site, say yes when it says you need xyz and your away.

    My mum is still AMAZED she can remember how to copy and paste - dropping to a term and bashing out command just to go on Facebook isn't quite what I had in mind when people have been telling me it's so user friendly...

    Linux - still shite for non geeks.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Snore - AC @ 16.45

      "My mum is still AMAZED she can remember how to copy and paste - dropping to a term and bashing out command just to go on Facebook isn't quite what I had in mind when people have been telling me it's so user friendly...

      "Most of the time, you'll never see APT itself - it has various friendly graphical front ends, such as Synaptic (under System | Administration) and the dead-easy Ubuntu Software Centre."

      But why let this get in the way of your bigotry?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Ubuntu Fanboi?

    This artical reads as if it is written by a Ubuntu fanboi, the tone is "Everything Ubuntu is wonderful, all other Linux distros are rubbish, and Windows is even bigger rubish."

    Whats's all this command line crap for new users - if you want a Linux that really runs out of the box go for Linux Mint. Mint handles CD, DVDs, MP3,wav,whatever... immediately after the initial boot without user intervention.

    The comments about APT .vs. RPM distributions is stupid and wrong and is typical fanboi language. Basing your distribution choice solely on which installation tool it uses is daft, especially when both work equally well.

    I have helped at least 30 people to migrate from Windows to Linux and I always give them Linux Mint to get them going. To date 16 of those people have abandoned Windows completely, 4 still need their Windows fix occasionally and 10 have given up and reverted to Windows. Not a bad conversion ratio considering I don't have the time or inclination to do too much hand-holding.

    Personally, I run an RPM-based distribution - just to show I am not biased.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo


    "Click on start, then run and type cmd"

    "Now type ipconfig /all"

    Yup, that Linux command line is REALLY scary.

    1. Captain Thyratron


      Or, equally likely:

      "Okay, now go to this website. Now download this piece of third-party software that makes up for some yawning gap in Windows' basic functionality."

      Pre-internet version:

      "Okay, now go to the store. Now spend money on something that, had common sense prevailed, Windows would already be able to do out of the box."

      1. The Other Steve


        "Okay, now go to this website. Now download this piece of third-party software that makes up for some yawning gap in Windows' basic functionality."

        Such as ? I think you're getting confused between which bits are the OS and which bits are the applications.



    I've just been playing about with Linux Mint and Ubuntu on a USB stick and it's a mixed bag from my mostly Windows background.

    Running an OS off a USB key (particularly a fast one) seems pretty damn neat to me and with the writiable drive function both performs faster than a live cd/dvd and you can install unpates and drivers to it. Excellent - it's exactly how every OS should be - totally portable and swappable.

    My major problem comes from the fact that neither mint or ubuntu will recognise my second monitor (running from an nvidia 240gt via the hdmi port).

    Also, trying to install the non-free nvidia driver (in the reccommended list of drivers that's helpfully displayed) for 3D acceleration results in a total failure to install (on both distros) and ... Googling results in reading about other people experiencing the same issue with no real answers forthcoming (just lots of complicated, best-guesses involving the command line, stopping servers and lots of other stuff well above my ability, none of which are reported to fix the issue).

    I'd love to be able to use Linux for general computer use but it doesn't seem to be happening yet.

    1. purplefloyd

      Have you tried downloading linux drivers from I've never had any (major) problems with 'em, but I do run Fedora on the machine that has an nvidia card.

    2. teebie

      I can't get Ubuntu to stop recognising my second monitor

      Sadly, I only have one monitor, so this can be an annoyance

  33. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    command line?

    More efficent? Of course it is

    Heck I could set up the office PC at work to use a CLI for transferring files from the PC to the robots and it would do the job in 1/2 the time it would take the GUI driven program to load.

    BUT non-techie people (who are in a very large majority) would never remember howto config the CLI command so a nice helpful GUI which has nice buttons to ask which robot to talk to and which file to send is a lot easier for the non techies to use.

    This is being written on my nice fedora box with its nice system updates GUI and its nice add/remove software GUI.

    The hardest part about setting this box up was copying/pasting the 3 commands needed to install mp3/DvD video support

    Which I hated!

    But I agree about this rather long winded article

    d/l a gparted live cd

    d/l your choice of linux

    use gparted to make room on your windoze hdd

    reboot with linux cd in drive

    select 'install in drive free space' option


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Also, remeber that the people that this article is supposed to help will probably need to use the package manager again later. However, because the writer couldn't be bothered to describe the dialog boxes or show screen shots, the reader hasn't learned anything about using the graphical package manager. Instead the reader has been shown that many things can be installed from the command line.

      If the author had written about using the graphical package manager, then the reader should have come away with a sense that installing additional programs in UNIX is actually rather easy. That it doesn't require you know the name of the program/package ahead of time. That it doesn't require a lot of typing or copypasta. That it can actually work very well.

      Personally, my biggest gripe about the Ubuntu package manager (which may have been fixed at some point) is that the descriptions of the packages were next to useless. I was never able to find what I wanted without using Google to find it first.

      I will also refrain from going into pedant mode on this article.... :)

  34. gerryg

    Circumstances make cases

    It is difficult to know who is this newbie thinking of installing Linux (or any other operating system) that is the subject of the article or the commentariat.

    I don't believe that this newbie is going to be created in isolation. Most these people that are being described by inference here probably do not know what an OS is let alone how to install one.

    My "newbie" goes as follows: they've got some good hardware, it's a bit fscked up, it's been fscked up once or twice before. They're fed up. The bloke in <Dixons|Argos|John Lewis> has suggested the solution is a new something

    (You don't want to carry on with XP it's 300 years old, trouble is Win 7 needs the newer hardware, yours for £500)

    Now possibly, just possibly they can't or won't spend the £500. (cf Blog of Helios). This newbies bump into "me" at <the watercooler|the pub|somewhere else> and vaguely knows I'm a bit penguin, has vaguely heard there is an alternative.

    After some discussion we do the live DVD dance at their place, they like what they see. I say it's a bit different from what they are used to, but it's got all these advantages and once you get used to it (as with anything new) you'll be well happy and much more secure.

    I will be doing it with openSUSE

    (may I just say "zypper dup" or "YaST", if you don't understand you don't need to)

    I will enable the repositories, and install the codecs (video drivers etc) so they don't have to, which solves all the how do I play <DVD|mp3|iplayer> problems. I'll even set up ntp, KWeather an the analogue clock so they don't have to in the first instance and won't notice the clock is always correct (until they do)

    This will involve an hour spent mostly sitting around drinking two cups of coffee and eating a piece of cake if I ask nicely.

    This will be based on KDE 4.4.4 because it works, it's beautiful and has loads of interesting and useful bits and pieces.

    I will explain that each user has their own space which means separate files, privacy and harmony between left and right handed users from the get go and not only once you've logged on and done some other stuff

    I'll discuss an external hard drive and luckybackup, as a "need it soon for important stuff"

    I'll be around for the rare (in my direct experience) "how do I?" as the user gets the hang of stuff and gains a small dgee of non-technical empowerment including coping with the little green gecko turning into a red triangle or orange thingy, from time to time.

    After a while, I might explain that there are alternatives for everything and while I like my computer to look like that, once you've settled in you could choose to experiment with one of the alternatives (i.e. gnome, XFCE etc) but that I only really know about KDE.

    What world does everyone else live in?

    1. The Other Steve

      What world does everyone else live in?

      The real one, where there is mostly no cake.

  35. Fozzyb


    Excellent timing, I've just installed the new version of Qimo for kids, and due to some problems with the previous version (based on Xubuntu) I decided to install and configure Ubuntu first and put Qimo on top.

    Everything went well except for the DVD part...

    And now that works too.

    Have a pint on me.

    How about part 4 'how to allow different users to log into different sessions'

  36. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    Quite simply. Not the article, the comments.

    I cannot, simply cannot, understand the vitriol in this set of comments.

    The basic problem of restricted and non-free add-ons not being installed out of the box has nothing to do with deficiencies in APT or RPM or Yum, but with software patent enforcement, and proprietary software formats.

    The fact that there is a CLI way and a GUI way to rectify this is not a problem but a beneficial feature. In both cases, it is necessary to either type or cut and paste, because the same reason that the software cannot be installed by default also prevents the repositories containing this software from being in the standard list.

    If there is a Linux which automagically installs MP3, WMV, Flash or Realplayer codecs, or the DVDCSS libraries, then it is exposing the users to potential lawsuits in certain regions of the world. At least Ubuntu lets users make an informed choice.

    Canonical are trying to be squeaky-clean, because when you get big, you become a target. When they try to address these problems on behalf of their users, for instance by licensing H.264 so that they can include it, they get criticized. It's damned if they do, or damned if they don't.

    None of this is ideal. But getting people sniping at each other about the best Linux distro is completely unproductive. It's bad enough seeing this from Windows and Mac users.

    I admit that I have not installed Fedora. The last Redhat release I installed was 9.1 (pre RHEL). But I decided that Fedora was too fast moving for me. I don't have the time for 2 major upgrades a year. I opted for Ubuntu LTS releases, starting with Dapper.

    I now recommend Ubuntu to anybody who wants to play with Linux, because it is just so slick. It may not suite everybody, but I want there to be a major distro which gains the critical mass for general acceptance as an alternative OS. I believe that Ubuntu is the closest we have got so far. It's not perfect, but it is going in the right direction, which I don't believe that RedHat is (certainly not in the consumer space). Once we see critical mass maybe the wireless and display chipset problems will go away, as manufacturers package instructions and drivers for Linux as they do for Windows.

    OK, you may like SuSE or Fedora or Mint or Debian, but are any of these gaining traction with users? Not as much as Ubuntu, I contend.

    And I agree that it is easier to describe how to add the extras for the CLI, but that only needs to deter users if they are trying to understand what it is doing, something that normally never causes Windows users problems (who really knows what a Windows installer program does!). It could have been done with screenshots and the GUI, but not as succinctly. It may be lazyness, but I suspect I and many others here would have done the same, with a comment such as "don't worry what it is doing, just do it".

    I would prefer to not have to do it, but that is not likely until all of the required add-ons are no longer required, or they are freed from proprietary control. What a happy day that would be!

  37. Anonymous Cowherder

    If the command line is so difficult...

    ...then why do we still have keyboards on our desks?

    The number of articles on linux that end up with some wintard bitching that they **hate** the command line is unbelievable. How do they get their fury on to these comment boards? Through a gui?

  38. Displacement Activity
    Thumb Down

    Sorry... fail

    Quick intro to Linux for non-techies - great idea.

    Part 1 - quick distro comparison - nice start.

    Part 2 - dual-boot - mistake; at least one reader has trashed their Windows machine.

    Part 3 - it now turns out that this is a Ubuntu advertorial. And, far worse, it's just plain wrong. So wrong, it's difficult to know where to start.

    > Linux is different: you get the OS, apps, drivers, media codecs and so on all from

    > your distributor, who has assembled them all into a single, more-or-less integrated

    > whole. So to add more software, and to get updates, you go to the distro-maintainer,

    > not to the original source.

    1 - This has nothing to do with Linux - it's just how some distros operate. This goes to the heart of the difference between Linux (the kernel) and GNU (the political philosophy), and is part of the reason why "Linux" (the OS) has failed so spectacularly.

    2 - For anyone who uses a computer for real work - ie. not just "Flash, Java, MP3 and so on" - this is also just plain wrong. You have to get the software from the vendor; no commercial vendor distributes through a distro-maintainer.

    > What you don't do is get program executables from unknown sources (such as

    > downloading them from the web) and run them, like on Windows. Unix isn't trusting like that.

    Wrong; this just confuses people about what Unix is. The Unix security model is *completely* compatible with downloading and running stuff from the web; this is how we do things in the 21st century. The GNU and Ubuntu *political* philosophies are the problem here, not Unix.

    Quite apart from anything else, the whole premise of this article is misguided:

    1 - It starts by telling us what the Ubuntu philosophy is, explains why that's a problem, and then gives detailed low-level instructions for fixing that problem. What?! If the philosophy is a problem, then don't use Ubuntu!

    2 - There's an underlying, and unstated, assumption that a computer only needs to run "Flash, Java, MP3, and so on". Sorry, but those of us in the real world use computers for real work. An article of this sort needs to *start* from this premise, and recommend a distro based on this premise.

    Sorry, but this article is part of the problem, not the solution. I've been using Unix since V7, and have been waiting 25 years for a usable desktop version. It looked like Linux would make it, but the GNU philosophy has completely screwed it, and the last 15 years of development has led to a vastly fragmented and bloated ecosystem, with absolutely no commercial awareness or sense of the marketplace, and a desktop share of essentially zero. 16 years after 'Linux' we're still getting articles like this, telling us that we're not allowed to download and run things from the web, and that "certain things don't work" for absolutely no logical reason.

    Oh, and for anyone who may have been tempted to install Ubuntu, rather than any other distro: there's only one thing you need to know about Ubuntu. They're not interested in binary compatibility with *anything*; it's official. That makes it, pretty much by definition, a dead-end.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Linux distros (Ubuntu) are almost there...

    For most computer literate people it is already good to use, just make sure your hardware is supported properly. One of it's weaker points is WIFI, but if you are lucky you can run the windows NDIS drivers in linux using NDISWRAPPER with a bit of fiddling around, worked for me on an card with no modules think it even supports 64bit drivers.

    If you are planning on doing anything more complicated like setting up servers and complicated firewall rules then obviously you will need to learn to use commandline, and to be honest what is possible in Linux just isn't in Windows at all for some things. The internet connection sharing dosn't suck like it does in Windows and is part of the firewall (iptables) built into the Kernel. Settiing up windows shares (samba) again you will need to learn commandline for the more custom setups along with user management and permissions.

    Remote desktop (NX) is probably the best implementation of a remote desktop that I have seen, and google even maker an NX server (neatx) that appears to work without any setup other than SSH.

    Shorewall is the best firewall manager I've used, although you have to read a 20 page manual to set it up, and even then its confusing. Gives you something to do for 4 hours. But there are other easier ones just not as customisable.

    rtorrrent + wtorrent (php) is probably the best torrent client I've used, although i needed to create my own scripts to make it work properly and download wtorrent from a SVN.

    vmware-server is pretty good, although does not run out of the box and needs patching, blame that on vmware people for not updating it for newer kernels.

    For video, whats wrong with VLC?!? then you don't need to install codecs at all...

    Encoding MP3's... you could just install wine and run dbpoweramp as you would do on Windows. On a different CPU, then I doubt it would even be a problem for you... not that I have ever encoded any MP3s in my life (FLAC,AAC,OGG much nicer).

    But yes the only real issue is the lack of DirectX support... OpenGL stuff works fine, but sadly not much is written to use it anymore. Anything upto DX8 should be OK though. If the wine team ever supported DX9,10 and 11 fully then it would be game over to MS. That is the only thing stopping me running Linux on my desktop comp, as a server it's brilliant.

  40. Magnus_Pym

    Just to add my two pen'oth

    Windows install process on my dads HP laptop already pre-installed with Vista.

    1. Start machine

    2. Make emergency DVD's as instructed.

    3. Wait for Vista to complete the initialisation and install processes only half done by HP

    4. Meanwhile watch a full length feature film on the TV

    5. Come back to find it almost ready to use.

    So just STFU about how you buy a windows machine and it's all just ready for you.

    P.S. daughters Mac

    1. Switch on

    2. enter your name

    1. Chika


      RISC OS was even better! Just switch on...

  41. Trevor 3

    WTF Command line overkill!

    I agree with about 78.2% of people on these boards. Why in the blasted hell did you include that 5 line PoS?

    Ubuntu-restricted-extras is available in the software install thing under the applications menu.

    My Missus: "How do I get flash?"

    Me: "Applications, software installation thing, type in restricted extras, hit install"

    User friendly is being able to shout the instructions into the lounge. Or over the phone.

    What really fucks me off, Gnome has a built in screenshot thing that saves to a file (not the clipboard) and if the writer was busy on his linux box anyway, he could have added the pics to the article really easily.

    A basic computer user doesn't want to use the command line. EVER. So why are you advising it for users at the beginning of their journey, when they don't need to.

  42. Chika

    OK, I'll explain.

    Some years ago, back before anyone had thought of Ubuntu let alone set it up, another distro was in danger of taking control on Linux. That was the pre-Fedora Red Hat distro. This meant that other developments and distros were being overshadowed and, in some cases, cut out of the loop entirely. What I try to make clear when I say "Linux is not Ubuntu" (not the other way around, since that would be a lie) is that Ubuntu is just a distro, nothing more and nothing less, and has its strengths and weaknesses just as all the other distros do. To dismiss every other distro just because the writer prefers one package system is pointless, especially as I doubt that he has tried them all. While I admit that I'm not a keen RPM fan, I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand as the writer of this article did.

    In other words, regardless of what was written in previous documents, if this is an Ubuntu introduction, then call it what it is - The Reg Guide to Ubuntu. Don't pass it off as anything else as anything else is a lie.

  43. heyrick Silver badge

    sudo apt-get what ?!?

    I already knew about the politics of ubuntu not coming with "dirty" codecs by default (which is a f**king joke for the large majority of the world this ISN'T the United States of Infected Patent Bollox), but what's with the command line? Is the author an American? Does ubuntu work differently in America? I ask this because I tried to watch the last episode of Ashes to Ashes on by xubuntu 9.xx setup. It failed, but popped up some sort of message about looking for suitable codecs. Clicky, clicky, progress bar, more on-screen gumph. But my .mp4 file still wouldn't play. So I closed the application, double-clicked the .mp4 and all was well. Maybe this isn't everything, maybe it won't do Quicktime, but I was able to play a demo of a lovely looking Flash game featuring puzzles with a cute scrap-heap robot, so...


    Bootnote: I'm a Unix newbie, mostly avoided it until now because I don't have the time or inclination for a quirky command line (*u*mount to unmount, why not u*n*mount? Was the omission of one letter worth it? Command line parsing so you prefix single letter prarameters with a dash, but you need two dashes for longer parameters. WTF? And don't get me started on doc.txt, Doc.txt, and DOC.txt being three entirely different files. There's some throwback to the Dark Ages deep in the heart of Unix. Perhaps what we need nowadays is a completely new OS that builds on the strengths of current systems (i.e. borrows heavily from Linux!), introduces some new concepts (I like the idea of the Minix3 reincarnation), and dumps a lot of the trivial obscurities of the current system (i.e. can anybody provide an *actual* reason for case sensitive filesystems except saving a few lines of code and a microsecond or two at runtime?).

  44. Adam Williamson 1

    No, we (Fedora) don't 'claim' twice as many users as Ubuntu

    Author clearly didn't read very carefully. Including the bit underneath the numbers table, where it says:

    "Currently there is no reliable way to count total users of Linux or a specific distribution which does have a per user registration process."

    "The numbers above do not represent a total user count for Fedora. We are counting IP addresses because that is the only thing we can reliably measure."

    It's very unlikely to be an accurate count of current users, because it's a total of all unique IPs that have ever accessed the Fedora repository list going back to Fedora 7.

    As the above indicates, no-one knows how many Ubuntu users there are, either. They have all the same counting problems we do. There's no way to answer the question with any certainty.

  45. get off

    Newbie with a Dunces cap. Sat at the back

    I like a few others are new to the game. Not happy about Dual booting just yet. I can't switch my netbook on, walk away and come back. I have to 'catch' jolicloud before it gets in there first.

    Therefore, I'll play in virtualbox first please. Yep, I like some of Distro's Ubuntu NBR, Mint and that Chinese one (YLMK) that looks just like XP and seems to use Mint over the top of Ubuntu.

    Theres's acres of stuff written on getting Virtualbox Additions working for starters though, let alone SUDO this that and the other.. Oh you got one character wrong did you and it's done something else entirely, has it.

    Works out of the box, does it. I don't think so.. Webcam black screen and wifi have been bugs for three years now. I know it may not be Ubuntu's fault but they know I'm going to try it in a VM first, or am I just 'weak'.. Dual boot to Jolicloud didn't fare much better either..

    Oh and Skype from Software Centre.. that was a direct Linux download for me.. Nah, why would I want video conferencing when I'm out and about, that's just a luxury. Sit in a darkened room and type like a twat, till you get it right, boy.. sudo apt gstreamer now.. Shush.. just copy and past more shite you don't care about...

    Ubuntu's great only your cam, mic, BT and wifi might not either, no but it's great though... Errr right. I'll plug Windows back in me thinks and get some work done...

  46. Anonymous Coward

    apt vs rpm and Fedora

    There's a classic mistake right at the beginning of the article (I paraphrase): "ubuntu has apt, fedora has rpm and apt is easier". You're comparing the wrong things. On ubuntu, dpkg is to apt as, on fedora, rpm is to yum. You should have started "ubuntu has apt, fedora has yum and there isn't much to choose between them".

    So let me set the record straight in a short paragraph for Fedora.

    1. download and burn the Fedora 13 image (or whatever is latest) from

    2. boot the DVD and follow the instructions. it's incredibly easy, really, it is.

    3. once booted visit and follow the instructions for getting the free and non-free repos.

    4. google (or look around for which packages you need to get mp3 and dvd support).

    You can use the command line (eg "yum install xyzzy" to install xyzzy and all its dependencies) or you can use the gui installer. Both are equally easy to use.

    For someone not particularly au fait with computers (eg your mother/grandmother) I'd recommend ubuntu. For someone who wants the latest and greatest, I'd recommend fedora. For everyone else, try both, see what you prefer. But do please try Fedora 13 (which is current), it really is pretty damn good.

  47. Paul 77

    Re: Linux Mint

    There is ONE problem with Linux Mint, versus standard Ubuntu (hopefully someone will tell me I'm wrong and how to get around this :-)

    When there are distribution upgrades, Ubuntu tells you a new version is available in the package manager, and you can start the big upgrade process from there.

    Linux Mint does not seem to allow this. The only method available seems to be to back up your user area and do a complete new install before restoring your user area.

    Or am I wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Mint takes pains to reduce the upset caused by upgrades. There are how-tos on the Mint site which describe the upgrade process. Mint is not Ubuntu, although it is a spinoff.

      Upgrading the LTS edition is perilous. Much changes in 3 years. And, the LTS editions are actually not valuable, unless you enjoy using outdated programs, such as Firefox. Certain programs are never truly updated, but remain stuck in the distant past - Mozilla programs particularly. For instance, Ubuntu LTS of 2 years ago has about a year left - of Firefox 3.0.

      You should use Ubuntu if you find their upgrades important and you don't mind the cockups that may occur. Mint is partly a response to Ubuntu deficiencies. If one uses MintUpdate wisely, much of the needless updating that so oftens fries an install can be avoided.

      And, don't forget to ask the folk on the forum how to login as root.

      1. Paul 77

        Mint Root login

        Root isn't a problem. If I didn't want to go the sudo route, which seems to work fine, I would do sudo once and then simply "passwd root" and there we go :-)

  48. Lon Bailey

    Okay now what (or more importantly - now how?)

    Have downloaded, burn to USB, installed, but no network connection- how do you set up the network connection? the Cat 5 is in, the green light is on, but then what, do I connect to a server? to my ISP? Sure ubuntu is free, but without something to make life simple for "ordinary users" what is the point of suggesting we should all swap over? sign.. this is like trying to run fedora all over again....

    1. blah 5

      Physical problem?

      Could be something as basic as a bad cable, or one that's not seated properly. Try reseating the cable at both ends and try again. If that doesn't work, try connecting a Windows PC or Mac using the same one. Does it come up OK?

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