So close, and yet so far

March 2nd, 2008 by webmaster

I recently heard about Wubi - the windows installer for Ubuntu. This utility is listed as a beta release, but it seems fully functional. The very special thing about Wubi is that it allows one to install Ubuntu Linux onto an existing Windows partition. The end result is a dual-boot configuration, without the need for separate partitions. And, since Wubi is installed through windows, it can be uninstalled just as easily. This sounded like something I needed to try.

I have an old, but trusty Dell C800 laptop that I use for deep-space and planetary image aquisition and processing. Since there are many applications for these tasks under Linux, I though this machine would be the perfect platform for such an installation. I have long been an admirer of Linux - power, beauty, stability, and tons of free software. And I really REALLY want to be a convert. My Knoppix boot CD has saved my keester on a number of occasions, but I have never had full-time (or even dual-boot) Linux box. Wubi was the nudge I was waiting for.

Wubi downloaded and installed flawlessly. The Wubi installer is compact, but the full Ubuntu download is a full CD’s worth, so takes a while to download. But download it did. And then it installed itself, and then let me reboot into Ubuntu, where it went through the process of autoconfiguration, and finally launching a fully functional Ubuntu desktop.

But here’s the rub.

Ubuntu did not recognize my wireless card. This, in and of itself, should not have been a problem. Lord knows I have configured enough hardware and OS’s to sink a ship, how hard could it be? I have worked with CP/M, VAX, DOS, OS/2, and several flavours of Windows, and for each of them making configurations was a straightforward case of following the instructions.

Not so with Ubuntu, I’m afraid.

The help files, online forums (accessed from a different machine), and Ubuntu documentation Wiki were completely unhelpful, for a simple reason. All of these expected me to be completely familiar with Linux. The instructions were not written for someone unfamiliar with the particulars of Linux. Yes, Linux is a geek OS, but Ubuntu is targetted at a broader audience. Something straightforward and basic such as “here’s how you check hardwarde configuration, and here’s how you install drivers” would be nice. But following troubleshooting steps from a variety of sources usually lost me on the second step. Either they would suggest an action without any information on how to perform that action, or they would give very specific instructions for utilities that did not seem to exist on my install.

As far as I could tell, the correct driver was in fact installed, but beyond that I was lost. After a frustrating day of getting nowhere, I came to the conclusion that either I am not quite ready for Linux, or it is not quite ready for me. I still have great hopes that Dell’s move to sell new systems preloaded with Ubuntu will bolster this OS with manufacturers and users alike. Even though it has a strong base of command-line power-users, if this OS is going to break into the mainstream it has to be simple enough that my mother could use it. And then maybe Linux and I will get along. I really hope that time comes soon, because I really dislike Vista. 

Posted in Big Ideas |

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