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Walt Mossberg Reviews Ubuntu

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the helluva-lot-closer dept.

Operating Systems 642

sciurus0 writes "Mainstream technology journalist Walt Mossberg recently reviewed an Inspiron 1420N with Ubuntu installed by Dell. Citing problems such as an oversensitive touchpad and poor multimedia support, he suggests that 'from the point of view of an average user, someone who wouldn't want to enter text commands, hunt the Web for drivers and enabling software, or learn a whole new user interface' Ubuntu isn't a good choice compared to Windows or OS X."

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Go Walt ! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638307)



HAHA ! /Nelson

There may be issues with Ubuntu (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638325)

There are going to be some problems with the OS. The question that I have, are these things that a user can overcome? In the long run, will Ubuntu (or any linux) become more stable then some M$ OS?

Yes! (1, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638527)

Ubuntu Linux offers so many more opportunities for users to actually get work done rather than fiddle with Vista's weird menus-nested-in-menus Start menu. Add to that the application support of the FSF and other OSS organizations, and the stability and usability of Debian, and the coolness factor of using Linux while all your friends are using Winblows, it's hard to see how you'd garner any benefit running Vista or XP even.

I'd venture to say that if Ubuntu doesn't take over the desktop this year, that next year will definitely be the year of Ubuntu Linux. C'mon, have you even tried it? It's AWESOME.

Your Citizenship Has Been Cancelled (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638371)


Rush Limbaugh reviews neurosurgery. What does Walt Mossberg know about Linux? He's a Windoze writer.

U.S.A. Communist Party FP!

Long live Karl Marx. Send some SPAM to this http://www.whitehouse.org/ [whitehouse.org] ">War Criminal

PatRIOTically,
Kilgore Trout, Marxist

Re:Your Citizenship Has Been Cancelled (5, Insightful)

kithchung (1116051) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638441)

He may be a Windows user, but he's also a much respected reviewer. Let's stop the attack and look carefully at his points and address them if necessary. How about a 'Getting Started' tutorial for new users to learn the UI and differences between Windows and Gnome?

Re:Your Citizenship Has Been Cancelled (3, Informative)

spxero (782496) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639013)

I haven't seen one for the differences between Windows and Gnome, ubuntuguide.org [ubuntuguide.org] was a great place for me when I was starting out. In addition, Automatix [getautomatix.com] is a wonderful tool to install all of the proprietary formats, players, etc. Linux isn't for everybody, but I think that if more people gave it a chance, they would find out that it isn't as scary as a lot of reviewers make it. Walt's review was balanced, but it was also wrong on some accounts (e.g. not being able to adjust the mouse touchpad sensitivity). I cannot totally agree with his experiences, either, as I have had 100% success in dealing with external devices such as iPods. I have been able to rescue a few iPods that were Mac-formatted with Ubuntu, something that I wouldn't want to try on an XP machine.

The review wasn't as comical as some reviews [informationweek.com] have been. (Who can put Window's Add/Remove programs on the same level as Ubuntu's Add/Install programs?!?), but there was very little content to go with the fluff. I don't think this article really tells us anything we don't know, or really helps sway new computer buyers one way or another.

Re:Your Citizenship Has Been Cancelled (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638533)

He's a stooge.

Would you write an article about your boss telling him how crap he is? Or would you prefer to get paid.

He, like all of us, is about gettin' paid, gettin' paid!

Re:Your Citizenship Has Been Cancelled (4, Insightful)

phoenixwade (997892) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638725)

What does Walt Mossberg know about Linux? He's a Windoze writer.
For the purposes of the Article, not knowing Ubuntu or any Linux distro is a plus. Remember the point of the Article was whether or not Ubuntu was ready for release to the "masses." The simple answer is, it's not.

I would love the average user to be technically savvy enough to install and use Linux, any distro. It would eliminate a lot of problems we all face. The technically savvy user would be able to keep their equipment cleaner from mal-ware and would be a lot more vocal about quality control of software products.

These kind of articles are what the Linux community needs. We need to have non-enthusiasts evaluate the distro, and then correct the problems. It's amazingly easy to get into the habit of understanding that an issue, or a kludge exists, work around it, and have it become so ubiquitous that we forget it's even there.

On the other hand, if we want to remain the elite minority, it's easy. Flame these kinds of articles and ignore the wants and needs of the non-elite majority. We'll stay Elite, holier than them, and a minority.

Re:Your Citizenship Has Been Cancelled (1)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638973)

Absolutely. It is utterly ridiculous that people nitpick the article's points as if to say, "aha, gotcha!" or "see, he *is* an idiot!" It is much closer than it was before, but that doesn't mean you can rest easy - no, it should be high time to surpass Windows and OS X once you catch up with them.

Complacency is the enemy here, don't espouse it. These sorts of outsider reviews are extremely helpful.

He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638395)

I read the Mossberg article (when it printed in a copy that a friend gave me)... the dude is a fossil.
He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu at all.

I have not touched a command line at all to install what I want on my sister's 1420n.

He has a bias toward Apple (he loves everything they do, they should send him a check for the amount he writes supporting them). Not that I don't like apple, but he gave Linux a short review that really did not cover the bases at all. Fedora, Ubuntu, Damn Small Linx, Puppy Linux, Knoppix, etc really is something that I wonder if he even knows about... and he is an expert?

Re:He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638557)

He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu at all.

I think his point is that he shouldn't have had to.

Re:He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638645)

Well, he can't really hope to use an open, free operating system while expecting proprietary, non-free codecs to be distributed with the installation image. If said multimedia had open-source codecs, that would be different, but it doesn't.

Re:He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (1)

kwandar (733439) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639123)

Actually, as a recent Ubuntu user Automatix (the software to install programs - right?) should get a huge mention. I installed a free game (Wesnoth), found and installed a conversion utility to convert mpc to Ogg , and got installed a beta of Gimmie for desktop organisation. I've barely scratched the surface of software available. If I had to purchase these extras in a Windows environment, that was probably $100. His comments are valid, and maybe I'm a "little more" tech savvy than the average user (ie. I know how to google solutions for things like restricted drivers) but he should clearly mention a key benefit like Automatix.

Re:He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (5, Informative)

blowdart (31458) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638599)

He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu at all.

Of course he didn't. Dell doesn't ship those. Read the article, he's reviewing as shipped by Dell.

Re:He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638647)

He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu at all.

With good reason. First of all, Dell does ship them. And Automatix, at least, is still crap: http://mjg59.livejournal.com/77440.html [livejournal.com]

Re:He didn't even mention Automatix or Easy Ubuntu (2, Informative)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638705)

"First of all, Dell does not ship them"

How far we've come (0)

kalpol (714519) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638403)

It sounds like the man has forgotten what a problem it used to be to install Windows NT, 95, 98, 2000...hunting for drivers, reconfiguring everything, trying to get your desktop out of 640x480x8....Windows XP has matured and hardware is well supported, but it's only been that way since 2002 or so. I'd say for hardware support Ubuntu is way ahead of where Win2k was in 2000 or 2001.

Re:How far we've come (5, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638487)

I'd say for hardware support Ubuntu is way ahead of where Win2k was in 2000 or 2001.

That's great, but it's 2007 now.

Re:How far we've come (3, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638781)

That's great, but it's 2007 now.

Good point. We should be talking about Vista not XP.
And I can assure you a whole HOST of stuff needs Vista drivers, many of which simply do not exist or are horridly buggy.

From cdma/1x/evdo or gsm/edge cards to older printers, faxes, modems, scanners, to cutting edge graphics cards.

Re:How far we've come (1)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638979)

It is, and Linux supports most anything out of the box, no driver installations needed. I built a multimedia box this summer and the only thing I had to tinker with on the command line was my PVR card.

Some bleeding-edge doesn't get support immediately on release, but even that situation is starting to change. Lately we've been seeing major hardware manufacturers releasing Linux drivers and providing technical assistance to Linux developers.

Re:How far we've come (3, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638997)

Too true. A "yeah but" rebuttal means nothing. To be an attractive alternative to Windows, an OS has to be better than Windows is *now*, not better than Windows was when Windows was its age.

Linux is really awesome for certain uses, but it lacks the fit and polish of an OS that's had hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on smoothing out rough edges and strongarming hardware makers.

The sad thing is that Linux has been "almost there" for years, but the reasons why its not "there" yet is as much about the hardcore factions who do their damnedest to create a hostile environment for businesses and non-techies as it is about any minor technical rough edges.

- Greg

Re:How far we've come (3, Funny)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639049)

Does that mean that Vista should really be renamed Windows 1999 ?

To be fair ... (-1, Troll)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638611)

He did get an Ubuntu laptop from Dell and NONE of his itemized complaints matched his "...someone who wouldn't want to enter text commands, hunt the Web for drivers and enabling software, or learn a whole new user interface..." bullshit.

#1. Problem with his touchpad. Probably legit.

#2. Volume control crashes on "wake from sleep". Probably legit - definitely minor.

#3. Playing mp3's - learn the legal issues, we've been harping on that for YEARS.

#4. Hooking up camera & iPod. Probably legit.

#5. Playing videos - see #3.

So he has TWO legitimate complaints and one minor problem. He's an idiot. By his "logic", Windows is not ready for anyone. Try getting an iPod to work on it without installing software.

Re:To be fair ... (5, Insightful)

AnotherShep (599837) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638719)

Anything not working is a legitimate complaint. Period.

It doesn't matter if the issues are legal or technological; if something doesn't work, it's an issue.

Then Windows is not "working". (-1, Troll)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638891)

Anything not working is a legitimate complaint. Period.

Then Windows doesn't work because you have to install software to get your iPod to function on it.

It doesn't matter if the issues are legal or technological; if something doesn't work, it's an issue.

Again, if your "logic" was correct then he could not recommend Windows. Yet he does.

You can't even handle basic spreadsheets on Windows given his/your criteria.

Now go and put a brand new Windows machine on the Internet without anti-virus or a hardware firewall. You can't even open random emails.

He's an idiot because his criteria would NOT result in a "working" system on any of those platforms. Yet he chooses to ignore that FACT and complain about minor issues instead.

Re:To be fair ... (4, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638731)

#3. Playing mp3's - learn the legal issues, we've been harping on that for YEARS.

You're missing the point. Average users shouldn't have to go to law school to figure out why their software doesn't work. Legal issues concerning codecs are irrelevant to users. Either the product works, or it doesn't. In this aspect, the product does not work.

Re:To be fair ... (2, Insightful)

the_lesser_gatsby (449262) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638947)

And this is because MP3 codecs can't be included in an OS without paying a bunch of money to Thomson (licensee of the MP3 patents). MS and Apple can pay this, Ubuntu can't. How could this ever be solved for free software until the patents run out?

The point is that Free is Free (not free). (0, Troll)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639083)

And this is because MP3 codecs can't be included in an OS without paying a bunch of money to Thomson (licensee of the MP3 patents). MS and Apple can pay this, Ubuntu can't. How could this ever be solved for free software until the patents run out?

Exactly.

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution.

It is based upon the GPL.

That's Free as in speech. NOT free as in beer. Which is what that idiot seems to have missed.

Ubuntu is NOT about being a free (as in beer) replacement for Windows/Macs. It's about being a Free (as in speech) system.

Picking up a Free system and then complaining that it doesn't work with your non-Free items is ... idiotic. He's looking for "free Microsoft Windows" and that is HIS error. Not Ubuntu's. Not Linux's.

Re:To be fair ... (2, Insightful)

brunascle (994197) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638981)

In this aspect, the product does not work.
until you install the codec.

does XP "not work" because it cant play h.264 out of the box?

Re:To be fair ... (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638793)

Try getting an iPod to work on it without installing software.
That is just the thing the hardware vendors do not support Linux. Apple does not ship a CD with the ipod that works on linux. They do ship a CD with software for Windows. The dumb windows users has always been taught that getting software to work was putting in the CD and going to start and run and typing in d:\setup.exe. If it does not work you call the hardware vendor. Where is that type of support on linux?

Volume control crashes on "wake from sleep". Probably legit - definitely minor.
People still use sleep? Besides 90% of the time windows crashes on wake from sleep.

#3. Playing mp3's - learn the legal issues, we've been harping on that for YEARS.
Since he bought the computer from dell cant dell pre-install all of the mp3 support? I remember when I bought suse 10.0 it came with a CD with all that crap on it. But if you were to download suse 10.0 it would not come with that CD.

Re:To be fair ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20639009)

> People still use sleep? Besides 90% of the time windows crashes on wake from sleep.

I use sleep on XP SP2 all the time. The machine is set up to go into sleep mode after 90 minutes of 'inactivity'. It wakes up every time without a hitch. The only thing that ever suffers is my VPN connection, because the far end client has timed out. We have at least two user accounts active at all times, sometimes three. So maybe Win2K sleep was unreliable. Win98 and ME certainly were. But I have problems with sleep mode on XP.

Oh yes, I choose to set sleep mode to avoid burning power when the machine is idle. Display blanks at 15 min., disks spool down at 30 min., sleep mode at 90.
I find that those settings never interfere with my daily use, but if I walk away and get distracted, the machine basically parks itself.

Re:To be fair ... (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638831)

The problem with the review is that in his mind, he's comparing it to his normal windows PC which is already configured and working. To have a fair comparison, you have to install a new Ubuntu and a new Windows (or buy them) and then get them both working from that point.

The main thing is the codecs in my opinion. Ubuntu needs to have a $10 version that includes non-free codecs that they can then sell to Dell for installation in pre-installed computers, because spending hundreds on a computer and not being able to play an mp3 is just retarded.

Re:To be fair ... (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638953)

To have a fair comparison, you have to install a new Ubuntu and a new Windows (or buy them) and then get them both working from that point.
Is it not fair that the Linux computer came from an OEM, Dell? He bought the computer not to have to install the new Operating System, he bought it to use it like a stupid user would do if her were to call Dell and purchase a computer directly. If I were to purchase a windows computer from dell I would expect it to work out of the box for something every other computer user can do, play mp3's, dvds, hardware works correctly etc. If i build the computer then that is a different story. I do not buy a Ford and take it to the mechanic and tell them to put the tires on for me after i bought it a week ago. When I can get a Chevy and the car is ready to go.

Re:To be fair ... (4, Insightful)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638869)

So he has TWO legitimate complaints and one minor problem. He's an idiot.

Is this a fancy way of saying he's an average user? Your average user isn't going to know anything about the legal issues surrounding codecs on Linux. All they know is that on Windows and OSX their media files play fine right after installing the OS. The habit of calling new users idiots and blowing them off saying "RTFM" is one of the things that's stunted Linux adoption on the desktop.

By his "logic", Windows is not ready for anyone. Try getting an iPod to work on it without installing software.

An iPod comes with software and instructions that make it ready and easy to install on Windows/OSX. I certainly doubt there are any instructions in an iPod box that deal with installing it on your favorite Linux distro. Which means of course that you end up online searching Google for how to use your iPod with Linux. This is one of his (legitimate) gripes. In fairness it's not a gripe with Linux so much as it is with the lack of manufacturer support, but for users this is one in the same.

Re:To be fair ... (1)

Bralkein (685733) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638911)

The problems are indeed silly and minor, and that is what makes them so bad. If Dell had taken a little bit of time to eat their own dog food here, then problems like touchpad oversensitivity probably wouldn't exist. Furthermore, the multimedia capabilities of a fresh Windows install are, IIRC, fairly limited. The reason why a brand new Windows PC will play DVDs etc. is because all of that stuff was set up previously. You'd think that a big player like Dell would be able to arrange for their Linux machines to be able to play a few DVDs and mp3 files, but they clearly haven't put in the effort here.

I don't expect Dell to even be able to provide decent Linux telephone support, and I appreciate that they do say before they sell you the machine that the Linux range is aimed at advanced users, and that support will only be forthcoming from the community at large. I am disappointed though by the apparent lack of attention towards pre-configuration and software-hardware integration which would for me be the main reason for selling Linux pre-installed in the first place.

Re:To be fair ... (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638929)

When you buy windows, you pay for licensing the required codecs to play MP3 and video files. If Dell thinks this is a big issue that customers can't play MP3 files (and I think it is), then they should work out some kind of deal whereby they pay for licensing for these codecs, so that people can play the files they want to play. Also, it seems that Dell has really bad execution of this product, and that it's not really Linux or Ubuntu's fault. The machine should come working, out of the box, and if it doesn't, then Dell shouldn't be selling it.

Re:How far we've come (1)

SensitiveMale (155605) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638737)

I'd say for hardware support Ubuntu is way ahead of where Win2k was in 2000 or 2001.

Maybe so, but no one is installing Win2k in 2001 right now.

Re:How far we've come (5, Insightful)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638757)

It sounds like the man has forgotten what a problem it used to be to install Windows NT, 95, 98, 2000...hunting for drivers, reconfiguring everything, trying to get your desktop out of 640x480x8....

None of which typically applied to a brand-new out of the box computer with Windows Pre-installed. What Walt was reviewing was a laptop provided by Dell with Ubuntu pre-installed by Dell. All of us Linux fans have been saying that the only fair comparison between Windows and Linux would be on machines with the OS pre-installed. We now have that situation, and Walt has some very valid criticism. Although I don't think the need to download new CODECs is all that severe, the poor video performance, problems with the touchpad and the crashing volume control applet are absolutely unacceptable for a pre-install.

Re:How far we've come (2, Interesting)

oliderid (710055) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638899)

He wrote that he is an average joe with strictly no technical skills...It probably means that he has used only pre-installed OSes.

How many people around you know what a CODEC is? How would they react if the operating system warns them that the program about to be installed may dammage their installation? What would they say if they can't sync their Ipod with their PC? Why would they say if the volume controller crashes each time the screen saver appears?

We all know the reality...The weak support Linux enjoys amongst manufacturers but consumers simply don't care, don't understand, don't want to know. It has to work period.

The Ubuntu founder recognizes that his product isn't ready for the mass-market yet (see the article).

I'm using OpenSUSE on my desktop for 10 months now. I don't have enough words to thank of all of us who have contributed to free software. Such a beautiful development environment (Eclispe, MonoDevelop, to name few) but...If you ask me If it is ready for my nephew and his Ipod, my sister in law and her pictures, or my brother fond of DVDs, I'd probably say no. I don't want to spend hours/days/weeks doing technical support for the whole family for such dumb things like syncing a Ipod, transferring pictures or print them.

Re:How far we've come (1)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639065)

I agree we've come a long way, but does that really matter when someone is considering a new computer? Would you buy a car with a problematic transmission just because it works better than last year's model? It needs to work correctly, not just better than before.

Re:How far we've come (1)

iBod (534920) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639125)

Oh bull!

Far be it from me to defend Microsoft's OS offerings but I think the truth does deserve an occasional airing.

With Win 95/98 there was not much 'hunting for drivers' unless you had very quirky, oddball hardware (for which the mfr. of said hardware should have provided Win9x drivers).

Win NT did have a bit of a driver famine initially, but by W2K, most of everything was tolerably supported.

I just don't understand your issue of getting desktops out of 640x480 8 - there never was an issue with supported video chips/cards (i.e. almost all by Win95).

I'm sorry, but as a long-time Ubuntu user, hardware support is certainly NOT ahead of where W2K was in 2001. Just yelling "IT IS TOO" doesn't help Ubuntu's cause one bit.

It's nothing to do with to OS per-se, but how the hardware mfr. prioritizes the demand and the market.

This is something new? (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638407)

Citing problems such as an oversensitive touchpad and poor multimedia support, he suggests that 'from the point of view of an average user, someone who wouldn't want to enter text commands, hunt the Web for drivers and enabling software, or learn a whole new user interface' Ubuntu isn't a good choice compared to Windows or OS X.

My wife has a Dell laptop and while the touchpad isn't sensitive the little nodule in the middle of the keyboard is while running XP! She doesn't use either of those though, she uses an external mouse so I guess neither matters to her.

Everyone with any sense knows that Linux isn't a great choice compared to Windows or OS X for those that don't want to learn a new UI (or anything else he said) as I've discussed here numerous times before to the pro-Linux troll mods' joy. Linux is a great option if you're not interested in additional cost, vendor lock-in, and attempts by a corporation to invade your personal privacy and choice due to their licensing allowances while covering it up with vague non-sense.

I will continue to run Windows and OS X on my desktop machines until any of the Linux distributions mature enough to match what's available on the Windows platform (which will probably never come unfortunately) and I will continue to trust Linux as my network server -- happily chugging along for years at a clip without as much as a hiccup.

Re:This is something new? (1)

entgod (998805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638835)

I don't really see why people view Linux as an alternative to Windows as it's really an entirely different beast. Most of the people (me counted) I know use Linux because that's exactly not wat they want to use, not just a free alternative to windows.

Using Linux instead of Windows because it's free is really no reason at all because, as previously stated in an article posted here, Windows is free (http://articles.tlug.jp/Windows_Is_Free [articles.tlug.jp] )

Bad article summary. (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639051)

His issue wasn't that the touch pad was sensitive.

His issue was that the touch pad was sensitive, and Ubuntu gave him no way to adjust it. A windows install would have provided a fairly intuitive way for the end user to adjust touchpad sensitivity/function.

Reviews make Linux stronger (4, Insightful)

saterdaies (842986) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638433)

Linux (Xorg, really) does configure touchpads to be too sensitive and some things still can't be configured graphically, but the fact that Dell is willing to sell a computer with Linux is a big step. It isn't perfect, but it is getting there. Frankly, reviews like his are what Linux really needs. Linux isn't deficient, but when people point out these things, it tells us "oh, maybe we can set more user-friendly defaults for touchpads in the xorg.conf - or create a small front end to edit them".

These reviews will only make Linux stronger.

Re:Reviews make Linux stronger (1, Insightful)

cs02rm0 (654673) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638595)

They're not configured to be sensitive enough for me. It's a preference and as long as you can configure it simply I don't see the problem if it's still useable enough to get to System / Preferences / Mouse.

Whilst reviews are great, it would have been nice if he could've asked a simple question about this on the ubuntu forum - I guess Windows users aren't used to the option of doing that.

Re:Reviews make Linux stronger (5, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638851)

Whilst reviews are great, it would have been nice if he could've asked a simple question about this on the ubuntu forum - I guess Windows users aren't used to the option of doing that.

You're right. If I have to go to a forum to get basic functionality of a brand new product working right out of the box, that product gets returned. Having to get "support" for a new product means that that product is broken.

Re:Reviews make Linux stronger (2, Insightful)

entgod (998805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639045)

So you returned windows?

Re:Reviews make Linux stronger (4, Informative)

bfields (66644) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639047)

They're not configured to be sensitive enough for me. It's a preference and as long as you can configure it simply I don't see the problem if it's still useable enough to get to System / Preferences / Mouse.

No, I have a 1420n myself, and the necessary preference isn't there. The sort of sensitivity he's talking about isn't configurable via the ordinary gnome mouse dialog--you need an extra synaptics-specific configuration utility that wasn't installed by default, and (if I remember correctly) a kernel patch to recognize the touchpad as something more than an ordinary ps/2 mouse.

Whilst reviews are great, it would have been nice if he could've asked a simple question about this on the ubuntu forum - I guess Windows users aren't used to the option of doing that.

He may well have done that, but the answer he would have gotten (upgrade your kernel, etc.) wouldn't have been interesting to the intended audience for this article, and he would have ended up saying the same thing anyway (that workarounds were available, but that most users would find them complex).

And, by the way, I'm quite happy with my 1420n. Like him, I'd recommend it to people that are interested specifically in trying Linux, but wouldn't recommend it to the general computer user yet.

For the non-RTFA folks (5, Insightful)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638435)

Mossberg isn't just dumping on Linux or open source. He generally likes the idea of OSS:

Ubuntu and other versions of Linux have several advantages. Unlike Windows and OS X, they're free. Unlike Mac OS X, they can be run on the least-expensive popular hardware configurations. Unlike Windows, but like the Mac, they are essentially free of viruses and spyware. And unlike Windows and Mac OS X, they are built and constantly improved by a world-wide network of developers, professional and amateur -- the so-called open-source concept that produced the excellent Firefox Web browser.

It makes sense that all the best software brains can't be located in just two places: Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft is based, and Cupertino, Calif., Apple's base. And plenty of people reading this have had lots of frustrations with the two better-known operating systems, especially Windows, whose latest iteration, Vista, is disappointing in many ways.

Rather, he notes some average-user-level problems with Ubuntu (simple things like video, audio, and mouse issues). He's talking about usability by people who don't read Slashdot and are not related to (or dating) someone who DOES read Slashdot.

Of course, he still thinks that "the Apple iMac as the best consumer desktop computer on the market." And we all know the iMac is horrible to use and support!

Re:For the non-RTFA folks (4, Insightful)

camusflage (65105) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638655)

Rather, he notes some average-user-level problems with Ubuntu (simple things like video, audio, and mouse issues). He's talking about usability by people who don't read Slashdot and are not related to (or dating) someone who DOES read Slashdot.

That is something that anyone looking at this article needs to consider. What Robert X. Cringely is to geeks, this guy is to the MBA crew. Consider the audience when considering the work.

Re:For the non-RTFA folks (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638685)

But we knew this. Ubuntu is better than most but still not to the point that someone can just point-and-click their way to operability. I full intend to use it on an old HP box I have (assuming I ever get a couple of hours some weekend, but I digress...), because from everything I've read, it seems like the best distro for someone just starting out with Linux. Linux is not there yet but gets closer all the time. It won't be many more years before it starts to show up on the radar screen of consumers, and then the true battle for OS supremacy will begin.

Re:For the non-RTFA folks (5, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638825)

Of course, he still thinks that "the Apple iMac as the best consumer desktop computer on the market." And we all know the iMac is horrible to use and support!
And yet, it's still the best consumer desktop computer on the market. Depressing, huh? :)

Re:For the non-RTFA folks (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638875)

The average person isn't suitable to use or own a computer. They don't want one, they don't like them, and they never will.

They want an appliance.

If it does anything cool and unusual, it's less of an appliance, so they don't like it.

It's not hard to understand.

Re:For the non-RTFA folks (1)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639043)

He's not reviewing "Linux" - he's reviewing a Dell laptop. A poorly configured one at that.

No computer seller should have released a machine with the kinds of problems he describes. The crashing Volume Control - that doesn't happen on my machine and I didn't have to tinker at all.

And as far as the touchpad issue is concerned- if the pad doesn't work for an average user, they should have either configured it themselves, or pulled it. Instead, Dell released a defective, user-unfriendly product.

He does ignore the amazing collection of software (including MP3 players), which is easily accessible through the graphical front-ends of the apt packaging system. Windows doesn't provide a decent MP3 player in my opinion (I wouldn't use the included spyware player), and it's harder to obtain one there.

Linux isn't perfect. Neither is Windows. It has lots of little problems like those mentioned, and they're being taken care of as they come to light. Microsoft has a whole bookshelf [annoyances.org] dedicated to these. How on earth could he think Microsoft is superior?

If Mossberg understood Free Software, he'd know that Dell could easily provide the support he claims is absent because developers aren't "bound" to users, as he puts it. Well guess what- neither is Windows. Just read your EULA.

Fair enough. (1, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638499)

His article was pretty well balanced and calm.

My brother is a semi-techie who's always been interested in Linux. I realized that for the past few years, I've always been pretty sure that the *next* release of Ubuntu would be just what he's looking for. But...

The ACPI and driver issues just never seem to really go away. Doing an "apt-get upgrade" doesn't always leave the system in a 100% functional state. Etc. So I'm starting to think that Linux distros will rarely or never have the same degree of polish that Apple, and in some ways M$, achieve.

Will I ever be able to recommend Linux to a semi-/non-techie without reservation? I'm starting to wonder.

Re:Fair enough. (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638991)

And if the hardware comanies were as chummy with the FOSS community as they are with MS, then these problems wouldn't exist.

Why do you think that we were joyful when AMD actually released documentation on some of the newest ATI cards, and that if and when (I hope) they follow through on their promise and release the 3D portion, we'll be fuckin' ecstatic?

As for the ACPI problems, that's because ACPI is a clusterfuck. Companies who build laptops don't care to test their solutions on anything but Windows, whose own implementation of ACPI is subtly (and arguably purposefully) broken.

Re:Fair enough. (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639089)

Not until: 1. Hardware vendors support it. 2. Software vendors develop for it, AND support it! 3. Documentation becomes centralized. Finding support can be done by using google, however most problems can be solved by going to www.microsoft.com. (Notice I said most, they may not solve the problem but they at least tell you what is causing it) 4. GUI's, Menus, and Control Panels become streamlined and polished. Setting up a windows network is 5-10 clicks on windows XP. Setting up Samba on Fedora and Suse involves changing config files etc. Do not get me started about sharing printers. 5. Linux gets rid of its tech following. Right now people think of Linux and they think it is a geeks wet dream. This scares new users. Grandma who bought her computer at walmart knows she is no geek so linux scares the shit out of her.

Over sensitive mouse? (1, Insightful)

cs02rm0 (654673) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638503)

System / Preferences / Mouse

There's no helping people who can't figure that out.

Re:Over sensitive mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638603)

My sentiments exactly... Last week someone released an Win32 Linux Installer that makes it easy for clueless people to do a push-button installation of Debian. I wonder what kind of backlack there will be when people start using it.

Re:Over sensitive mouse? (1)

Diordna (815458) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638721)

What if they had a mouse *and* a trackpad, and they wanted to make the trackpad less sensitive? Are you saying they should just live with a super-slow mouse?

Re:Over sensitive mouse? (2, Informative)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638867)

Theres a synaptic touchpad (the driver all touchpads use) driver gui to adjust the sensitivity of the mouse. Its availabe in the repos, and at that point is system-preferences-touchpad.

For the google impaired:

gsynaptics is the name of the package.

Here's the search that turned it up.. some people can't be helped I guess:

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=synaptic+touchpad+sensitivity+adjustment+ubuntu [google.com]

http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Ubuntu:Feisty/Hardware#Touchpad [ubuntuguide.org]

Re:Over sensitive mouse? (1)

mycroft822 (822167) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638817)

From TFA:

There is no control panel for adjusting the way the touch pad works, and I found it so sensitive...
He's whining about the touch pad, not the mouse.

re: Ok, I agree there.... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638971)

Seriously, Mossberg probably wrote a fair, overall, summary of things with this review. But picking on the trackpad sensitivity or speed is pretty weak. I'm just as angry that Apple still defaults to the right-click being disabled in "keyboard/mouse preferences" in OS X, despite every one of their new desktop Macs shipping with a "mighty mouse" that has right-click capabilities. I've already had to "fix" that for 2 new iMac owners who thought their mighty mouse was broken or defective.

Re: Ok, I agree there.... (1)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639101)

I've got a few year old Acer tablet, and my touchpad is considerably more sensitive in Ubuntu than it is in windows; I've been running Ubuntu on it for the past 6 months or so. If I ever so slightly brush the touchpad, it will register a click. Occasionally, when I'm "rowing" on the touchpad, it will register a click when there really shouldn't have been. His gripe is valid, and not addressed with the control panels available in a default installation.

You can't deny it (4, Insightful)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638505)

The hardcore Linux proponents can deny it all they want, the simple fact of the matter is that when the average user sits down with a Linux box, there are still numerous shortcomings that may make it unacceptable.

I've said it elsewhere, I've said it here; licensing MP3 would be a good start for Ubuntu. They can certainly afford it, and the US MP3 patents are only valid until 2012, so it'd cost at most $250,000 to essentially get permanent MP3 support.

GPL MP3 support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638763)

Re:You can't deny it (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638913)

so it'd cost at most $250,000 to essentially get permanent MP3 support.
Or they could pay two solid US developers for a year... personally I'd rather see that - it's not hard to enable MP3 playback in Ubuntu. They could work on built-in wireless drivers :)

Re:You can't deny it (1)

jc87 (882219) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638977)

And with $250,000 how many coders/maintainers can they hire until 2012 to work in other things, like the kernel, xorg, usability, repositories, etc... to do you know things that really matter?

MP3 out-of-the-box is not a "killer app" (and i can add with just a few clicks without ever touching the CLI), and if you think it is there are several Distributions (a bunch of them just plain Ubuntu with a few customizations) which do include it, so feel free to recommend any of them!

Simple stuff (4, Interesting)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638531)

There is no control panel for adjusting the way the touch pad works
So, Dell does not install gsynaptics for touchpad control? Bad move, but this issue will go away soon, since it's default in Gutsy (Ubuntu 7.10).

When I tried to play common audio and video files, such as MP3 songs, I was told I had to first download special files called codecs that are built into Windows and Mac computers. I was warned that some of these codecs might be "bad" or "ugly."
I dunno about the installation dialog in Feisty (which must be what Dell uses), and I agree that the wording here can use polish. But hey, at least it asks me whether it shall install the codecs it needs. The last time I tried to play an avi file in Windows, Media Player popped up a message that it should download the codec, then it said error, then I couldn't watch it. (I am also using the same POV as in the article).

To get the computer to recognize my Kodak camera and Apple iPod, I had to reboot it several times. When it did find the iPod, it wasn't able to synchronize with it.
I don't have an iPod, but all cameras I attached to Ubuntu since Dapper just worked, even those that wanted me to install crapy software for Windows.

Playing videos was a bad experience, with lots of flickering and freezing. Oh, and there's no built-in software for playing commercial DVDs.
Huh? Did Dell forget to enable XVideo? I haven't had such a problem for amny years, my AMD K6 450 played videos w/o a problem. DVD: why the hell does Dell not install a player and pay the license?

That's all the complaints the author has. Not bad, I have seen Windows users with a lot more.

Re:Simple stuff (2, Insightful)

insertwackynamehere (891357) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638937)

I bet Dell has some legal issue with installing an opensource DVD player, since aren't all opensource DVD players technically illegal ever since the DVD protection was cracked in 2001? Technically, DVD should only be proprietary, but it's WAY too late for that and no one really cares except possibly Dell since they're a large company who doesn't want to get sued. Or I could be completely wrong. Please correct me if I am.

Re:Simple stuff (1)

LcdAngel (1156765) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639079)

The only company that included a purchaseable dvd player for linux that was legal and commercial was Lindows. So commercial dvd players really have never been available due to the open source issues and protected CSS keys.

And in other news... (0, Troll)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638551)

...the truth hurts. :P

Malware? (2, Funny)

Britz (170620) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638559)

How about someone that doesn't want to search for good AntiSpyware solutions?

A good sign. (3, Insightful)

delire (809063) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638607)

Dell needs to take these things in steed. If Mossberg's criticisms are valid - which they seem to be - then Dell isn't far off from having a system perfectly reccomendable to 'non-techies'. Perhaps then Dell can compete with those preinstalled Ubuntu laptops [system76.com] non-techies do seem to find great out-of-the-box.

You should listen to this man (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638615)

He is right on the money for main stream usage. As much as linux has improved, it still has a lot of uphill lifting to do.

Keep working on that install, and perhaps instead of having to type in the command for something. Distribute an ICON ON THE DESKTOP that installs the media copy righted stuff so newbie users can watch CNN etc...

He is correct. Linux is still too hard for say your 50+ year old mother to install. Not impossible, but people are like water, they take the path of least resistance every time.

Who the heck is Walt Mossberg? (1)

emailandthings (844006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638633)

I run ubuntu and I agree that it may not be ready for the MAC OS type of guys( Try installing compiz-fusion), but Linux is fun and I am installing it whenever I see a need.. So who is Walt Mossberg ?

Grandpa (1)

cyberkahn (398201) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638637)

Linux still is a little rough around the edges and I'll be first to admit that, but it's an uphill battle when you are fighting a virtual monopoly, who has all the cooperation it needs with hardware vendors. I will say that Ubuntu has accomplished a lot. Linux in general has accomplished a lot as well, since I started using it. Of course after a week working with Vista objectively I am not very impressed. It's obvious that this release was all about revenue and not innovation. I would keep in mind that the guy that wrote this article is a grandpa. ;-)

how about a real average user (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638657)

I've read loads of these columns, where tech writers try to be an 'average' user, and then complain about what they think might be difficult to use in Ubuntu. IMO these are worthless.

What we really need to see are some real Linux noobs to be given Ubuntu, and then an assessment of how they get on over a period of hours, days or weeks as they try to go about their business, given their background knowledge and the support services that are typically available. Would be harder to do I suppose, and would have the disadvantage of not knowing what the results would be before starting.

Average Computer users CAN do this (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638691)

The reason is that the average computer use does not do ipods or cameras. They are simply surfing, email, etc. It is the power users, and above average computer users, that are doing the rest. My father has actually converted a number of old win31, win95, 97, NT, win2000 users to Suse and now Kubuntu, and they are staying with it. The ones that will not are those that are currently using OSX, XP or vista who will not convert easily. The reason is that they needed the most current OS BECAUSE they are power users.

Re:Average Computer users CAN do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638919)

People using mainstream consumer electronic devices such as *iPods* and *cameras* are power users now? If that's the case, changing your screensaver must make you the 1337est ub3r guru evah.

Re:Average Computer users CAN do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20639023)

The reason is that the average computer use does not do ipods or cameras.

Bullshit.

That is all.

Re:Average Computer users CAN do this (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639037)

The reason is that the average computer use does not do ipods or cameras.
I don't think I know anyone without either an iPod or a digital camera. In fact, aside from my grandfather who only has a digital camera, I cannot think of anyone without BOTH!

And everyone also has a printer that they would need to get working.

Re:Average Computer users CAN do this (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639095)

Maybe 5+ years ago that point would have been valid.

But not anymore. People with iPods and cameras are not power users by any stretch of the imagination. My grandparents plug their camera into their computer all the time. They are in their 80s.

Plugging things into your computer is not a power user thing. Normal people do more than surf and email these days. Sure, there are some of those people out there of course, but that does not define 'average user' by any means.

shocking!! (-1, Troll)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638701)

some old guy that doesn't want to change his computing habits doesn't like a product that changes his computing habits, and doesn't recommend it for others who are also reluctant to change... just like every "tech" columnist has for the last 10 years. i was so surprised when i read this that you could have knocked me over with a feather... i mean, dell *never* ships crappy software... otherwise bill gates would have to admit what a hunk of crap windows is... since the founder is always help accountable for the vendor's mistakes.

take that linux community! all that you have done is for naugh! so sayeth some old newspaper guy.

seriously, if you are a columnist who is supposed to act as the gatekeeper to new technologies for mainstream america and you can't make ubuntu work... then mainstream america needs a new gatekeeper.

reprints without permission /w original comments (1, Troll)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638729)

This column is written for mainstream, nontechie users of digital technology. These folks aren't necessarily novices, and they aren't afraid of computers. They also aren't stupid. They simply want their digital products to operate as promised, with as little maintenance and hassle as possible.
Isn't this a contradiction?


So, I have steered away from recommending Linux, the free computer operating system that is the darling of many techies and IT managers, and a challenger to Microsoft's dominant Windows and Apple's resurgent Macintosh operating system, OS X. Linux, which runs on the same hardware as Windows, has always required much more technical expertise and a yen for tinkering than average users possess.

Isn't this biased and patronizing? And is there proof of the last claim? I can set up most Linux distros such that a user needs no knowledge at all of Unix. How is that different from OS X?


Lately, however, I've received a steady stream of emails from readers urging me to take a look at a variant of Linux called Ubuntu, which, these folks claimed, is finally polished enough for a mainstream user to handle. My interest increased when Dell began to sell a few computer models preloaded with Ubuntu instead of Windows.

Translation: I'm going to stomp all over you so stop bugging me.


I've been testing one of those Dell Ubuntu computers, a laptop called the Inspiron 1420N. I evaluated it strictly from the point of view of an average user, someone who wouldn't want to enter text commands, hunt the Web for drivers and enabling software, or learn a whole new user interface. I focused on Ubuntu and the software programs that come bundled with it, not on the hardware, which is a pretty typical Dell laptop.

How can he claim to be something he's not?


My verdict: Even in the relatively slick Ubuntu variation, Linux is still too rough around the edges for the vast majority of computer users. While Ubuntu looks a lot like Windows or Mac OS X, it is full of little complications and hassles that will quickly frustrate most people who just want to use their computers, not maintain or tweak them.

Again, lets enumerate what those are Walt? We'll get to those later.


Before every passionate Linux fan attacks that conclusion, let me note that even the folks who make and sell Ubuntu agree with it. Mark Shuttleworth, the South African-born founder of the Ubuntu project, told me this week that "it would be reasonable to say that this is not ready for the mass market." And Dell's Web site for its Ubuntu computers warns that these machines are for "for advanced users and tech enthusiasts."

What does where he comes from have anything to do with it?


So, what do I mean when I say Ubuntu is too rough around the edges for average users? Here are some examples.

Yeah here comes some steaming piles of rational!


There is no control panel for adjusting the way the touch pad works, and I found it so sensitive that I was constantly launching programs and opening windows accidentally by touching the thing. Every time the computer awoke from sleep, the volume control software crashed and had to be reloaded.

Isn't this Dell's issue? Even under Windows, Dell tunes their OEM install.


When I tried to play common audio and video files, such as MP3 songs, I was told I had to first download special files called codecs that are built into Windows and Mac computers. I was warned that some of these codecs might be "bad" or "ugly."

Well, what does Free mean to you Walt?


To get the computer to recognize my Kodak camera and Apple iPod, I had to reboot it several times. When it did find the iPod, it wasn't able to synchronize with it. Playing videos was a bad experience, with lots of flickering and freezing. Oh, and there's no built-in software for playing commercial DVDs.

And if there were, then it would be in violation of MPEG licensing. Good call Walt.


The Ubuntu-equipped Inspiron 1420N starts at $744, but the configuration that Dell lent me for testing sells for $1,415. The same unit equipped with Windows Vista costs $1,524. The Ubuntu version includes OpenOffice, the free office suite that competes with Microsoft Office. Dell charges an added $149 for Microsoft Office.

So what is your point? That people that don't want to run Microsoft products really should because its almost the same price for the hardware?


Ubuntu and other versions of Linux have several advantages. Unlike Windows and OS X, they're free. Unlike Mac OS X, they can be run on the least-expensive popular hardware configurations. Unlike Windows, but like the Mac, they are essentially free of viruses and spyware. And unlike Windows and Mac OS X, they are built and constantly improved by a world-wide network of developers, professional and amateur -- the so-called open-source concept that produced the excellent Firefox Web browser.

But as a casual user, this is all moot. A casual user would not be accessing the open source, would they? You've already noted that free doesn't equal quality.


It makes sense that all the best software brains can't be located in just two places: Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft is based, and Cupertino, Calif., Apple's base. And plenty of people reading this have had lots of frustrations with the two better-known operating systems, especially Windows, whose latest iteration, Vista, is disappointing in many ways.

Vista crashes too Walt, is this what you mean? Or that many applications still aren't Windows compatable because Vista isn't 100% backward compatible? Or maybe that Classic MacOS users got totally screwed over by OS X?


But open source is a two-edged sword. While it draws on smart developers from many places, nobody is ultimately responsible for the quality of the product, and open-source developers often have an imperfect feel for how average people use software. A European company called Canonical is the "commercial sponsor" of Ubuntu and provides support. But it's largely focused on corporate and techie users. Average Ubuntu users are likely to have to wade through online forums, often written in technical language, to get help.

Well, necessity is the birth of innovation some say. I think your experience differs greating from those that have a distro tuned for their hardware.


Dell and Canonical tell me there are complex workarounds for some of the problems I encountered, and that built-in improvements are planned for others. But for now, I still advise mainstream, nontechnical users to avoid Linux.

How do you qualify complex? Install new software?


Email me at mossberg@wsj.com. Find all my columns and videos online free at the new All Things Digital web site,

Yay Walt! So you can tell us how stupid and misguided we are? Well, you did that to me...

Underwhelming surprise. (4, Insightful)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638747)

Mark Shuttleworth, the South African-born founder of the Ubuntu project, told me this week that "it would be reasonable to say that this is not ready for the mass market." And Dell's Web site for its Ubuntu computers warns that these machines are for "for advanced users and tech enthusiasts."

Armed with that knowledge, he goes out to write a column about:

So, what do I mean when I say Ubuntu is too rough around the edges for average users?

Apparently, though it is "too rough" it is not rough enough to keep the uninitiated away despite warnings precisely to that effect, which is a damned sight more interesting by itself than the litany of peeves he enumerates.

What's Not To Like? (4, Insightful)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638765)

I tried Linux in several distros back in 2000 and was amused but not pleased. Driver support was crazy, the simple matter of changing screen resolutions was terrible, and useful applications (beyond games) made Linux a poor choice for the basics.

Times change, however. Contrary to Mossburg, who, much of the time, is a very even-handed and well-informed tech columnist that really knows the ins and outs of Windows and OS X, I'd have to disagree with him here.

I've installed Ubuntu client in my Parallels virtual environment on my OS X system. I like it over the past Linux distros for several key reasons:

(1) Ubuntu (actually, GNOME) has greatly simplified its interface, "stealing" good elements from both OS X and Windows. From the Mac, a fixed menu bar at the top of the screen, and only four menus at that. Finding things is easy. From Windows, the notion of menu-launching key applications a'la the Start menu button (rather than mere commands found in OS X menus).

(2) Ubuntu has very good hardware support, but always there will be a system that doesn't like it as well. This is because of the same problem that Windows has (although Microsoft has more money and clout to throw at this problem): Hardware quality and variations in the computer world are astronomically huge. Expecting any operating system to support the myriad of PC hardware variations is just near-impossible. Ubuntu does much better, in my experience in using it, than say another GNOME interfaced-Linux, Fedora. (In fact, Fedora is pretty awful in client form.)

(3) Ubuntu has EVERYTHING that the average Joe Offthestreet needs for basic internet and home needs: A web browser (Firefox, arguably best in the biz), an office suite (OpenOffice, always trying to be something that MS Office thinks it is), a mail client (Thunderbird, a client so nice I've moved from Apple Mail to it on my OS X system) and lots of games and the like.

Software update processes are now less crazy and propellerhead, again taking the ideas from the commercial camps. Security is as good as any Unix/Linux client, and since its not Windows, spyware and viruses are not generally present here.

Ubuntu loses only in the specialized "gimme-gimme" internet needs of the youth and industry, like iTunes (doesn't exist, but good MP3 players and support for them are, although iTunes Music Store reins supreme, IMO), some specialty web features for audio or video, professional-level graphic and audio tools, and enterprise support (this problem is shared with OS X, despite my own personal and professional efforts to the opposite).

Installing further applications outside of the bundled, however, needs work. GNOME needs to expand further with, say, Apple's "package" concept of a single app in a double-clickable folder that contains all the binaries and libraries for the app. For now, Ubuntu works like many Linux clients, so third-party apps are hellish to do for the average Joe Whodoesntdo-cmdlines.

If I had a friend or family member that needed a computer (PC) but didn't want to fight the antiquation battles that MS wants to give its consumers, AND if my friend only needed to do web, email, and general office stuff, Ubuntu is a hands-down favorite.

Mossburg and others, unfortunately, may have had too much exposure to other operating systems to see things more simply. Not everyone needs an enterprise-level operating system...just one that works for them for what they need, at home.

Obvious (1)

sleepykit (942636) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638789)

Why anyone is surprised by that review is beyond me. An average user, much as I hate to insult anyone, is usually computer illiterate to the point where any changes from the Windows (or Mac) UI are completely out of their scope of ability. It seems not to matter that Ubuntu comes with a slew of newbie friendly features or that have a logical GUI.

surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638801)

>"Ubuntu isn't a good choice compared to Windows or OS X."

Well it isn't but it doesn't aim at that market.
The first time some newbie Ubuntu user pops into BestBuy to purchase some software, they'll realize their mistake.
It's great for the cash challenged and techies, but not regular people.

Poor article to judge by (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638829)

Mossberg was comparing the out-of-the-box experience from a preconfigured machine Dell sent him. He didn't have to deal with install at all. He did about 1 paragraph of "valid" argument that some things in the software didn't work correctly... and they should have.

But he made no mention of what DID work. The Dell should have had everything working... CD burning, DVD burning, 3D effects, wireless, internet, office.... etc. He made no mention at all about what he tried to DO with the machine. All he pointed out was that his camera and iPod didn't work when plugged in. The camera is another issue to probably fix, but the iPod doesn't include software for Linux in it's package...why would it work with Linux? Then he dives into the useless troll that it's free, but it's still not good enough and should be better if people want to do serious work... Blah, blah...

For being a tech journalist, it was a trash review... it had no "journalism" at all, and was merely an excuse to dismiss Linux for another few years without reporting on what's actually going on... just like the corporate masters like it.

Unfortunately it is true... (1)

Undead Ed (1068120) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638843)

Ubuntu right out of the box or even freshly installed can't play mp3s, Windows media files, DVDs and a whole host of other protocols that are common to the 'Net savy Windows luser.

This is because Ubuntu refuses to include these protocols because of religious beliefs that all multimedia protocols should be free and even makes it difficult to find and load them from alternate sources.

Well done Ubuntu! You are making absolutely certain that any new user will be frightened away from your OS because of your timid approach reality.

When I setup an Ubuntu box for a client, I immediately connect to sources for all the non-free codecs and applications (Adobe Flash & Acroreader, SUN Java, all the Microsoft data formats and even install Wine for some proprietary applications as required).

I then install MPlayer and SMPlayer and adjust the OS to make these the default players for almost all video formats because they blow what Ubuntu thinks is cool right out of the water when it comes to features and stability - hear that Mark?

There is little point trying to sell the world your fantastic product when it can't even play an MP3 or DVD - how useful is that.

I blame Ubuntu for not adjusting to reality in this case - beautiful operating system but almost useless out of the box.

'I'm not dead yet' Ed

Does it matter...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638853)

Does it matter that the founder of Ubuntu is "South African-born"? Is it some Xenophobic undertone to the founder or is Mossberg of the old mind set where everyone must be qualified by race (My black/asian/indian friend George said...)

Consider Walt's Position in the PR World (1)

asphaltjesus (978804) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638857)

Sadly, some joker already tagged this article haha. Please consider all of the points below.

1. Walt & the WSJ doesn't much like change, or new ideas in a big PR money category. Playing two PR reps and their big-budget companies off one another is preferred. A third wheel screws the whole thing up no matter how much money Shuttleworth throws at the WSJ.
2. Walt's fundamentally a very imperious sort of fellow. So a GUI like OSX is more up his alley.
3. Walt can't piss off Microsoft or Apple. They are major WSJ advertisers. Who knows what else they provide for Walt.

I think it was a very bad idea on Shuttleworth's part to drive for a WSJ review. Anyone with some PR experience would have told him that it was going to go badly because of at least 2 of my points above. If Shuttleworth/Dell ever get another crack at it, it will be more of the same kind of nonsensical dings that red headed step child brands typically get in the PR big-leagues.

most people use windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20638865)

So wouldn't using Mac OSX still involve learning a new interface? I'm going through that change right now. I am a long term PC guy who at home is voluntarily trying Linux and at work forcibly trying Mac. and there is some nice stuff but I kinda like my Ubuntu at home. I suppose at home I also have my nice fuzzy warm blankey that is windows I can easily switch back over too when things get too uncomfortable.

My issues with Ubuntu (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638943)

I applaud the Ubuntu team for their efforts but castigate them for not putting just as much effort into KDE and Kubuntu, despite the fact that Canonical's head said that KDE would be "fully" supported and given attention. I have looked at KDE 4.0 and I can say it looks very promising. Ubuntu still, appears to lean mostly toward GNOME.

Like I've (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638969)

never had those type of problems with XP or OSX. In fact I've had more difficulty with the trackpad on my Toshiba laptop running XP then I ever had running Gentoo.

Usability and Culture (5, Insightful)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 6 years ago | (#20638993)

The problem that Linux has is that it's written by wildly disparate groups of people with different ideas about how an OS should work from a user perspective. The strength of Linux is that it's written by wildly disparate groups of people with different ideas about how an OS should work from a technical perspective.

It's perfectly possible to make a UNIX OS be usable by the masses -- Apple's done that with OS X. The difference is that Apple "cheats" -- they only support a certain range of hardware, all of which is a known quantity to them. They're not dealing with the issues of a Frankencomputer made from whatever bits of hardware happen to show up.

The only way to get Linux as a mass-use OS is to user test the living hell out of it. That means a continual process of refactoring so that the user never has to view the command line unless they really want to. That means making sure that every application follows a consistent HIG. That means that the first person who says something along the lines of "RTFA" gets canned.

What matters isn't technical excellence, but a culture of usability. The Linux subculture is still based around the hacker ethics -- and that's why Linux remains an OS primarily for people who enjoy compiling programs and manipulating settings. That has to change. The culture needs to be one of taking a critical look at every stage in the process and presenting the user with a set of simple and consistent choices that let people use their computers rather than worrying about getting their machine in a usable state. Ubuntu's leaning in that direction, but they still have a long way to go.

The problem is that changing a culture is a hell of a lot harder than just writing software. A culture in which people are expected to navigate the Internet looking for answers will keep Linux marginalized. A culture that says "this problem is too complicated and needs to be simplified so that the average user gets it" is a culture that can take Linux to the mainstream. Not only that, but it encourages technical development as well -- a good number of the reasons for unnecessary complexity is because there are unnecessary complications in the way a piece of code works. At the end of the day, a solution that's simple for the user is often simple at the code level as well.

I've been using Linux for a decade now, and Ubuntu is a great distro -- but it still isn't enough. The only way that Linux will get mainstream acceptance is when Linux developers start consciously thinking about the overall user experience. It isn't the code that's the problem, it's the culture, and looking for technological solutions to cultural problems doesn't work -- just look at what Microsoft is trying to do with its current strategy.

the community members do listen and it matters (1)

fadilnet (1124231) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639063)

QUOTE: But open source is a two-edged sword. While it draws on smart developers from many places, nobody is ultimately responsible for the quality of the product, and open-source developers often have an imperfect feel for how average people use software. Huh? This is madness!!! The word "communities" is associated with open source. Everyone in the communities (whether it's the developer community or the av. user community) can voice out opinions about say a feature, and people within those communities listen, discuss, and this can even cause new features to emerge for e.g. He should be aware of the zillions of forums out there dedicated to open source projects and how everyone can voice out opinions which MATTER! As far as the Ubuntu review goes, he should not just give up. Normally, most average users experiencing problems will call for some help from others and learn how to mend issues. This is how an av. user is turned into an experienced user over time. Come on! There are far better reviews from newbies out there, who actually mention how they got Ubuntu (or any distro or app) working thanks to the community. Ubuntu is FREE! It's open source. There's excellent support via the forums, and it's time to switch to *nix, and become an experienced user (over time).

If you refuse to think, why even use a computer? (0, Troll)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 6 years ago | (#20639105)

Looks like Walt reviewed it from the point of view of someone who completely refuses to read, think for themselves, or even lift a finger to accomplish simple tasks.

That begs the question, why would such a person need or wish to use a computer in the first place? A respirator and feeding tube might be more appropriate.
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