I am not the smartest person. I like to think I am a smart person, and to be sure, I do have my areas. But like anyone I have my limitations, and like anyone when trying something new those limitations tend to come out into the open and can end up making me feel foolish.

I suppose this isn’t anything to be ashamed of—it’s perfectly normal and is a natural part of learning any new subject: sometimes you fall, and sometimes it’s a smooth ride—there’s no getting around this.

Well that conundrum happened to me a few weekends ago. I tried to install Ubuntu 14.04.4 LTS (Desktop, 64-Bit) on my Windows 10 computer; yeah, that didn’t go so well.

Aside from the tremendous privacy violations the new Windows 10 seems to think it’s okay to commit, there’s the simple fact that I just plain hate Windows. Whether it be Internet Explorer coming pre-installed; the lack of a single, easy Unicode input method that, comparatively, Linux users have long since come to enjoy; the annoying, largely UX decisions on the part of MS developers; or just the fact that, for whatever reason, Windows has, regardless of version, consistently proven to be an unstable environment in many ways, it’s honestly in my eyes nothing but largely a piece of junk.

Unfortunately, taking it upon myself to install Ubuntu, as easy as it could have been, turned out a largely crash-and-burn operation for me, though that’s not obviously what I aimed for.

Granted, this reality is not—I repeat, not—the fault of the Ubuntu developers (mostly). Frankly, it was almost entirely my own fault. Most of the issues I had faced would likely have been reduced, if not eliminated had I not been so impatient to finish the job. (This was probably due to the fact that my project to install Ubuntu over Windows had already dragged on for a week or so, so I just wanted to get it over with. Still, that cost me a lot of sanity…)

Overall, I thought it could still prove to be a great OS environment for me to use if I could ever get it working, which should have come with time. But until I did, the damage had been done.

Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from dealing with this:

 

I. If you’re going to need to run Windows software, install Wine before you cease having Internet access.

Perhaps it’s just because Microsoft has dominated the personal computing market for decades, but the fact is that .exe files are used a lot, and you cannot run these files natively in Linux environments. You can run them with Wine, a program that allows for running Windows software on Linux, but you can’t obviously install Wine—or at least download it first—without Internet access.

My mistake was leaving the local library (I couldn’t afford Internet service at my home) for the weekend before installing it. To be fair, this wasn’t actually my fault: for some unknown reason, although working long enough for me to install updates & necessary files at the time of installation, the WiFi started disconnecting right after it connected. Same with Bluetooth. And I don’t understand why.

Still, I worry maybe this happened because I did something wrong. This is probably over-worrying on my part (I do that), but I feel like my meta-ignorance about how to properly set up Ubuntu contributed to some major unknown degree towards this issue.

 

II. Necessary components for watching DVDs are not included or downloaded at installation; you must do this manually.

Although it may seem like quite a basic bit of functionality for all of us used to using more proprietary (read:closed off) operating systems like Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OS X, the fact is that those companies can ensure that your laptop’s disk drive works with DVDs out-of-the-box because they can pay license-holders the fees necessary to do so; that’s why OSs are generally charged for.

But because Ubuntu is 100% free for the end-user, DMCA and other copyright restrictions mean that compatibility with DVDs—which are typically encrypted to prevent illegal copying—cannot be ensured prior to distribution.

(Just as a side-note, however, audio CDs are supported out-of-the-box. Either that, or Celtic Woman released both good music and a good CD.)

The official Ubuntu help pages1,2 on the topic describe it better in my opinion:

In order to play DVDs, you need to have the right codecs installed. A codec is a piece of software that allows applications to read a video or audio format. If you try to play a DVD and don’t have the right codecs installed, the Movie Player should tell you about this and offer to install them for you.

DVDs are also copy-protected using a system called CSS. This prevents you from copying DVDs, but it also prevents you from playing them unless you have extra software to handle the copy protection [see below].

DVD support cannot be provided by default in Ubuntu due to legal and technical restrictions. Most DVDs are encrypted and so require the use of decryption software in order to use them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know this. I thought it would be ready to play DVDs right then and there when I got home.

Boy, was I glad when I found out my housemates had old VHS tapes lying around…

 

III. Unless your operating system came with your computer, don’t expect total compatibility.

Within the first twenty-four hours after installing Ubuntu, I noticed something happening with my trackpad that I originally though was only a problem with Windows 10. Everyone once in a while, it would go wild, completely rampant, moving all over the place for a brief five to ten seconds or so. This would be completely random, and would occur regardless of program or time of day.

Well, it happened even then, which led me to suspect it may just be a problem with the hardware, not the software.

Bottom line: unless your computer came out of the factory with the current OS installed on—and thus calibrated to—it, there’s a very real possibility you may run into certain issues. They may not happen, certainly, nor may one even be much more than just a nuisance, like mine is; but be aware that the possibility is still nevertheless there, no matter how well-built or well-designed the OS is.

 

IV. The default archive manager cannot open 7zip files, so if you back up any important files, do it using a common format if at all possible.

One of the most annoying mistakes I realized I did was I backed up all my files in 7zip (.7z) format. Originally, I had archived them in ZIP form, but this seemingly proved to be too large a file at first (it wasn’t). It was not until after I had created the 7zip archive and then deleted the original ZIP archive that I realized the default archive manager—creatively named Archive Manager, by the way—doesn’t support opening the former.

Upon further thought, this certainly makes a good bit of sense. After all, .7z is a more powerful file format for archiving information than just the basic old .zip format: not only can you compress files much more densely, but more precisely, too. So why would the default manager, meant to be just something to hold the fort until the user can install one better, be equipped with that level of functionality?

But, then again, if it doesn’t have a need to open 7zip archives, then why does it apparently have the need to create them? It makes you think.

 

V. Always dual-boot.

For those who don’t know, “dual-booting” means that you have two operating systems installed on your computer, and at boot-up your computer asks you which one you want to load into. It can be a very useful thing to do if you want one operating system but don’t want to give up or still need the other.

This is what I should have done.

I don’t care if you think you understand Ubuntu or computers in general—always dual-boot. Because I decided to be stupid, I was stuck with an OS environment where one of the few things going for it was the hope that running a few updates would fix it for me.

Worst-case scenario? You have both. Best-case scenario? You get to choose which one to give up after giving yourself the time & try-it-before-you-buy-it experience to make the decision—and even then it’s optional. If you love both, you can keep both.

Just dual-boot. It’s easier.

 

VI. Never get impatient when dealing with operating systems directly, no matter how simple.

Remember what I said I did, in the 6th paragraph? Look up again & read it.

See? Yeah, don’t do that.

 

VII. Despite the articles we’ve read, Ubuntu isn’t quite ready yet for the everyuser.

The image Ubuntu tries to portray in many tech articles and marketing material is that it’s the first Linux distribution simple enough for even basic users to operate.

Except that’s not true, for a couple reasons:

  1. I’d like to redirect your attention to Point II above: if any Linux distribution were ready for the everyday basic user, DVDs would work right out of the box. Granted, that’s not really developers’ fault at all, but the abhorrently restrictive and irrational policies meted out by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other copyright law. Still, though, a fact is a fact; it has nothing to do with blame.
  2. Ubuntu is very user-friendly, and for the most part is the most GUI-oriented Linux distribution to date. Nevertheless, one still needs to learn a bit of command line to do certain, albeit very few, semi-elementary tasks. And although most users who would even seriously contemplate using Linux voluntarily would probably be okay with this, for the average computer user even the word “terminal” would be enough to turn them off to the possibility.

 

VIII. Applications included with Ubuntu won’t necessarily be up-to-date.

As with many operating systems and OS environments, some programs are included in the basic package. In Ubuntu, one of the most prominent ones has been LibreOffice: the free, libré, and open-source successor to OpenOffice, and Microsoft Office’s most powerful competitor.

Unfortunately, as much as I adore it, and without even going into its often lack of up-to-date documentation, one thing I found I did not appreciate was the fact that whilst its Windows equivalent had already reached version 5.0, the pre-packaged copy was still only at version 4.2.8.2.

Now, I admit that maybe this is not how it typically is. Who knows? Perhaps I just happened to install Ubuntu about the time they made a rare mistake. Or maybe development schedules had pushed back the Linux code. Honestly, I don’t know. If I’m wrong here and I’m being too harsh due to lack of certain information, I’ll be the first to admit that; still, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if I were not.

 

Given this overall experience, let’s just say that, well, my satisfaction was not entirely on par with what I would have liked it to be. Of course, most of it is due to my own lack of knowledge & meta-ignorance.

Still, such is life: we learn from it.

 


1 Ubuntu Desktop Guide. “Why Won’t DVDs Play?” 〉”Installing the Right Codecs for DVD Playback”

2 Ubuntu Desktop Guide. “How Do I Enable Restricted Codecs to Play DVDs?”

 


Image Credit: Sarah Lasair Berry
Image based on: “Ubuntu Dices”, by Ksilcek (Ksilček).
Released under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
Image has been modified, and is re-released under the same license.

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2 thoughts on “Setting Up Ubuntu: Lessons from a Nooblet

  1. I appreciate that you spent times over sorting out your issues with your first Ubuntu installation. I’m just another fellow Ubuntu user who happens to be using it for a much longer time than you. Nonetheless, I remember my initial days of hurdles. A few suggestions I’d like to give:
    1. You don’t need to master the Linux bash commands bit learning a few administrative commands like apt-get and add-apt-repository certainly helps.
    2. In LTS version of Ubuntu, most of the packages are only updated if there is a security patch, to keep the system from changing as little as possible for the end user. But that does not mean you can’t get some of the applications updated to the latest version. See PPA.
    3. Always install the ubuntu-restricted-extras after new Ubuntu installation, preferably from Terminal or Synaptic package manager. This will take care of the 7zip and the dvd codecs issue. Or you can check the options while installing Ubuntu. There is a checkbox in the installer.

    Like

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