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Ubuntu Linux, Day 28: My Biggest Ubuntu Linux Complaints

Today I reflect on the experiences installing and working with Ubuntu Linux

The time has come. I have reached the end of the 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux series, and it is time to wind down and reflect on my experience. Just as I did last month with 30 Days With Google Docs, I will list my top five complaints, followed by the five things I like the most, and finish up with an overall summary of my thoughts.

Before I dive into today's list of the five things I like least about Ubuntu Linux, I need to clarify two things. First, the 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux project is about more than just the core OS of Ubuntu Linux itself. There were comments throughout the thirty days from people who felt that some of the posts were off-topic, but the 'topic' is the experience of a Windows user trying to jump into, and make sense of a Linux world, including all that it entails from financial software, to installing a webcam.

Second, I want to state up front that I actually had a hard time coming up with five things. I don't want to steal any thunder from the final Day 30 post, but in general I found Linux, and the tools available for Linux to be quite capable. There is really nothing about my experience this month that was a total deal-breaker.

So, here we go:

1. Syncing the iPhone. You can blame Apple for not supporting Linux with a native version of iTunes. You can blame me for using an iPhone. Both of those are irrelevant and silly though. The fact is that I do have an iPhone (and iPad), and the iPhone needs to be physically connected to the PC and synced with iTunes in order to update things like the actual iOS software.

Granted, Apple revealed that it is cutting the cord with iOS 5, so as of this Fall this will no longer be an issue. But, as of today, this would be one reason I wouldn't--or couldn't--just switch to Ubuntu Linux.

2. Banshee. This one is pretty petty, I admit. There are a myriad of music player options available for the Linux community, and no reason that I would have to stick with Banshee. It is the default music player installed with Ubuntu Linux, though, so it seems like fair game. I hate iTunes, and Banshee gave me new appreciation for that devil spawn, so Banshee must be pretty bad.

3. Wine. I heard great things about Wine and using Wine to run Windows software from within Ubuntu Linux. However, none of the applications I tried to run in Wine actually worked. Microsoft Office 2010, Quicken 2011, and Evernote all failed.

There were plenty of comments--some nicer and more supportive than others--explaining how to use Wine with different command line tweaks and such, and some suggestions to forget about Wine and literally install Windows in a virtual PC running within Ubuntu. That solution seems like a step backwards, though--if I wanted to just install and run Windows, I just wouldn't switch to Linux in the first place.

4. Swimming Upstream. It felt like every solution created two new issues, and that just finding software, installing it, and getting it to run properly often involves more creative thinking, duct tape, and chewing gum than I care to invest. I want my PC to just work--like my car or my microwave oven.

But--if Ubuntu Linux was a microwave--I would have to first research obscure types of food uniquely crafted to work with the Ubuntu Linux microwave, then press the magic button enabling the food to be cooked, and search through forums and online help to find the specific way to rewire my microwave to work with that particular food.

I just want to press Start.

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

Many of the flames are on par with the Apple iPhone 4 'antenna-gate' response that users were "holding it wrong". You can't attack the user for simply doing what seems natural or intuitive to them. You can explain how things are done differently on this platform, and/or you can use it as a lesson to develop tools that work the way average users trying to switch to Linux might expect them to.

The Linux flamers should be thankful that the actual developers of Ubuntu Linux, and the developers of the tools they rely on within Ubuntu Linux do actually listen, and pay attention, and use experiences like I have documented over the last month as a teaching moment. I am not suggesting that everything should just be changed to work the way I think they should, or the way I expect based on my experience with Windows.

Linux is Linux, not Windows, and there is an obligation on my part (or the part of any user switching platforms) to make an effort and get through the learning curve to become familiar with the conventions and culture of the new platform. But, the more developers listen and understand what a user such as myself expects, the better the software can be written with prompts and error messages to help guide new users through that learning curve.

There you have it. Like I said, the five things I don't like are a little weak. Come back tomorrow for the list of the things I like best about my experience with Ubuntu Linux.

Read the last "30 Days" Series: 30 Days with Google Docs

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