Linked by David Adams on Mon 24th Aug 2009 09:21 UTC
Linux A reader asks: Why is Linux still not as user friendly as the two other main OSes with all the people developing for Linux? Is it because it is mainly developed by geeks? My initial feeling when reading this question was that it was kind of a throwaway, kind of a slam in disguise as a genuine question. But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I felt. There truly are a large amount of resources being dedicated to the development of Linux and its operating system halo (DEs, drivers, apps, etc). Some of these resources are from large companies (IBM, Red Hat, Novell). Why isn't Linux more user-friendly? Is this an inherent limitation with open source software?
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Please, installing a program in Windows=double click icon, Mac=Double click icon, Ubuntu, if it is synaptic great, very easy to do just search for the file. However, if it isn't in there like skype, or chrome beta, or numerous other programs, then it is a crap shoot were it can be as easy as editing an apt source file or as complicated as a never ending loop of dependencies.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time I was in ##linux on Freenode and a guy came in complaining about Linux being hard and not being able to install some little app he wanted. We went back and forth on the issue a few times and it came out (eventually) that he had done this:
* Gone to and couldn't find the app.
* Used google to locate the app's web site.
* Gone to the web site for the app, downloaded the Windows exe. Saved it, double clicked.
* Gone back to the web site, downloaded the source tarball. Saved it. Double clicked. Didn't know what to do with what he saw, didn't finish extracting.
* Gone to google and found some generic build instructions. Could not figure out where to type them.
* Went to IRC and asked about unpacking tarballs. Eventually we got him in a terminal and unpacked the tarball.
* Still on IRC, asked what next. We found he didn't have GCC or a build environment.
* Asked him if he'd tried his package manager. My what?
* Sir, what distribution are you using? GNOME? No. Distribution. Debian? Okay. What application did you want?
* Type this: apt-get install whateveritwas

At this point he went from "Linux sucks balls, why would anyone ever try this junk" to "You have got to be kidding me. It's really installed now? Computers can do that? That's amazing." Followed by "What else can I install this way?" and some comments which lead me to believe that he was grinning like a madman.

This same fellow came back the next day wanting some software not in his distros repo. I remembered him, which saved time. This time it took only a few minutes to tell him about .deb files and what to do with them. After one Just Worked he left and I never heard from him again.

What was the point of this story? I don't remember.

You know, now that I think about it any good handler for .deb files (for when you double click them in your file manager) should really run them through apt for a depends check and come back with a "foobar.deb requires additional software to be installed." dialog offering buttons for "Install everything" and "Details..." giving a list of exactly what will be installed and "Cancel install". That would fix 99% of depends issues.

The other fix would be a little repo stub file which basically says "Download package foo from repo bar." and a handler app which figures out whether you have that repo and, if you don't offers (in simple language with a one button accept) to add it and attempt the installation. This would be the most ideal solution for purely third parties.

What was I talking about? I don't recall.

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