22 December 2010

Ask me about Ubuntu. Not. Or how I disappointed yet another user.

I will acknowledge from the start I know very little about Ubuntu specifics and have a lot many other more important things to do before learning, so when someone I remotely know came and asked a problem by answer was "not sure I can help, shoot".

I was able to diagnose the issue: Pidgin unable to login to Yahoo Messenger because Ubuntu 9.04 is older than Yahoo's latest authentication change, tried to come with a solution, package update, which the user wasn't able to implement (neither sudo apt-get update from terminal, nor from the GUI), I have no idea why... probably because it was a Live USB created from a CD? (it is a temporary solution, while the damaged hard drive of that Windows PC is replaced... not gonna happen very soon, students don't have much money) I don't know... I am familiar with live persistence only on Fedora live media (and recommend only Fedora to those asking me).

The massive download needed for an Ubuntu from this year was not a solution either, so in the end she concluded a pirated Windows XP with no updates or security patches is the better choice. When she will have a hard drive.

How do I feel about this? These days I don't feel anything. How should I feel?


  1. I get that often. They ask me Ubuntu stuff as if I knew Ubuntu. I've never used the distro. In my case, I give them the Fedora answer, hand them a CD and/or flash their USB with Fedora.

    To most, Lunix is Linux and as long as it works, it doesn't matter if its orange or blue, so I might as well help them help me help them out.

  2. Basically I would do the same, hand Fedora media, but this is impossible when talking over the internet with someone from a different city.

    ...and for the most part a GNOME desktop is still a GNOME desktop (that's it, until we will get to the Shell/Unity divide).

  3. I'm also a long-time Fedora user (and lover), but I use Ubuntu at work (on purpose, to keep familiarity with both distros).

    Both distros have strong points and weak points. I recommend flexibility. My final goal is to see GNU/Linux market share increasing (particularily on desktops), so I will use Fedora or Ubuntu depending the case.

    Usually, I recommend Ubuntu to absolute newbies and to „office users” and Fedora to engineers and programmers. I've found that Ubuntu is THE tool to determinte an individual to switch from Windows, but no more than that: they will usually go to Fedora after their experience increases. :)

    So let's make an effort to keep GNU/Linux market share increasing... :)

  4. As said, I have better things to do than learn and track yet another distro: I can instead get some work done, like take photos, draw graphics, write tutorials, prepare presentations, edit videos... And I think you overestimate the "magic" of Ubuntu, newbies are just like the girl I was talking in this post and was unable to connect to IM with it (yes, it was an unfortunate chain of events mostly due to Yahoo, but she's not a total newbie either).

  5. You should kindly redirect them to their local LUG, where they can surely find a Ubuntu experienced user who can fix the problem ;)

    My guess is that the USB was a copy of the CD files (as in, / is the squashfs image, read-only). I think the solution would be to install Ubuntu on the USB disk, which would format it to something writeable.

  6. Yeah... the Rimnicu Valcea LUG :D ... still I was surprised she asked me and not the guy who introduced her to Linux/FOSS/Ubuntu... well. I'm not, he's also in Bucharest but refuses to use Y!M so is hard to catch :D

  7. Ubuntu 9.04 was released two months before Fedora 11. You're not getting updates for that, either. Not even Fedora 12, for that matter, whereas 9.10 is still supported. Is it really reasonable to expect something like Yahoo! or MSN to work after such a while?

    If she had used Fedora 11 or 12, would you have written the same post?

  8. @Anonymous: I would have pointed she is using an outdated version.

  9. Actually, I missed the part that said downloading any recent distro was out of the question for some reason. Bummer.

    But that also rules out updating a distro, since the accumulated patches tend to be over the size of the install media in the first place.

    The problem with the live usb install might be that for some reason that escapes me the Ubuntu live usb creator needs to be explicitly told to use all extra space not immediately needed by the install, which means filling a file with the requisite amount of zeros on the FAT partition the install resides on.

    Simply installing to an ext2 partition using the regular installer on a flash disk seems way more reasonable to me than the hoops the creator jumps through. Is Fedora any saner in this regard?

  10. You don't do massive upgrades on live media, there is no room for that, only, if needed, a particular package.

    With Fedora you add a parameter (or check a box in GUI) and you have live persistence: you can do upgrades, install apps, save data...

    I have no idea how the install was made, i was only called very late in the process.

  11. I don't know about the cost of downloading a single CD at the location where that girl lives. So 700MB might actually be "massive" there.

    But if a cracked version of XP is the preferred alternative, I don't think it is Linux's fault. No matter what the distro is named.

  12. Hello nicu , first you dind't knew how it was installed for me it's a weird install
    second a dist-upgrade to latest version (maverick) should solve the pidgin issue at least
    there is a ppa with latest pigdin and i think it can be forced to 9.04 if is not supported
    ps: yes pidgin killed a lot of ubuntu/linux users in romanian land because of crappy yahoo services
    this is why i refuse to use it anymore (xmpp is the way)
    pps: live usb can be recreated from latest ubuntu , i don't know much about persistence , i did't used it too much ...

  13. I suppose I've misunderstood the term 'live' in this context. It always seemed silly to me to have a convoluted install scheme specific for flash drives when the regular install method worked without the warts. :)

    For my actual 'live' needs, I use 'grub2 + iso files + updater script', meaning I need only drop the newer images to the ext2 partition and run the script to add them to the grub config. For me, it seems more convenient, even without persistence. This works well for sysresccd and Ubuntu, but Fedora is hung up on this bug (not the original, it has been filed and refiled): https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=650672

  14. @mariuz: it was mentioned that
    #1. Bandwidth is at a premium, downloading a new ISO is out of the question, and dist-upgrade doubly so. Multiple dist-upgrade from Jaunty to Karmic to Lucid to Maverick? Madness.
    #2. It's a live usb install, it would run out of space if it weren't for issue #1.

  15. I never, ever used Ubuntu before I did this Girl Scouts class recently. The lab has some computers that have Ubuntu 10.whatever installed. (They were corporate donations and the companies didn't want to give up their Windows licenses so they installed Ubuntu on them.) Once a couple of girls came to class early and were playing with Ubuntu. They wanted to make some music. This was my first time using Ubuntu.... I installed hydrogen and jokosher... we made a drum beat in jokosher and the girls wanted to rap on top. We had jokosher working for maybe 5 minutes, then the girls wanted to speed up the song. By default jokosher couldn't do this, it gave strange error messages saying some packages were missing. We tried to install them using the ubuntu software center thing. It completely broke sound on the computer. Jokosher stopped outputting audio - we installed audacity to try it there, no sound at all. We uninstalled jokosher and tried to reinstall it, we rebooted... no dice. Oh, well. My single time using Ubuntu, I spent more time trying to fix it than actually using it.

  16. @mairin: haha for the legendary user friendliness :D

  17. Actually, those sounds like the firsts reasons for my move to Fedora, and become a contributor instead just another fanboy. Kubuntu was unstable like trying to cross the Atlantic Sea in a little boat,;an old PC just seemed unable to recognize an onboard ethernet port; GCompris (my daughter's and my students' favorite suite :D) at least 6 months behind its lastest version; and pretty much another troubles like that.

    Tired of that, i test Fedora, a total success!

    1) KDE spin works like a charm;
    2) GCompris is up-to-date without compiling the last upstream by myself;
    3) the PC i thought its ethernet was unusable (a really old PC donated by a friend) worked at first try!
    4) Many, many other advantages over Ubuntu...

    So, instead of just writing a blog about my brand new fall in love again to Linux, i started to contribute with translations, without having to affiliate to any local fanboys groups.

    Fedora is not just user friendly, is also contributor friendly.

  18. Hmm, what do I have a feeling Ubuntu is nothing more than flash over substance?

  19. Always use the right tool for the job. (pragmatic)

  20. hey, dude
    sorry to read it only now, but here's a solution for others who see this article:
    http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=48359 - I wrote this a while ago when I had big problems after yahoo changing authentication or whatever protocol(s).
    It might not be a two-click (Windows-style) tutorial, but it should work on most distros.
    In a few weeks I'll try to compile it on Debian Squeeze, too.