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By petersum at 2006-06-14 17:49
I am a promoter of Linux in Pakistan where, because of pirated software, there is an overwhelming usage of Windows. It is hard to convince people to change over to a "free" operating system when Microsoft products are also "free". So, I take the line that Linux is better and safer (virus free). There is a certain amount of success this way. But unfriendly install programs remain the "killer" for Linux.

LiveCD versions are fairly recent additions to the varieties of Linux and they are very, very useful to start people off on the right path. However, there are good ones and bad ones. Here I would like to list some of my likes and dislikes in the hope that distribution and liveCD makers will follow the advice in future offerings.

Number one complaint is the inclusion of "vga=791" or something similar in the boot config. (Lilo, Grub, syslinux, etc.) I don't know what this is and neither does my monitor! Staring at a blank screen does not do much good for Linux's promotion! There should be a standard of "vga=normal". I am tired of typing it.

A related complaint is about video resolution and timing.
1024x768 is the standard minimum in order to see the full X window display. A person coming from the Microsoft world is unlikely to have ever used this resolution before and would not choose it naturally. So, make it the default for X!
60 hz. or 70 hz? Here in Pakistan, we always use 60 hz. because our electricity supply is operating at 50 hz.. American users would use 70 hz. because their electricity supply is at 60 hz. It is not difficult to understand is it? You cannot use the same frequency because it would cause black bars to show on your monitor. You cannot go more than 10-15 hz higher than your supply frequency on standard monitors without making the image less than full screen. So, a simple choice is required, preferably with a clue for none technical users, e.g.
60 hz refresh rate (for 220/240 volt 50 hz. systems)
70 hz refresh rate (for 100/110/120 volt 60 hz systems)

Choose your Monitor

In the past, there used to be an option on XFree86 / Xorg setups of:
Non-interlaced 1024 x 768, 800x600 ...
under the "Generic" section. This worked with every monitor that I have ever seen in Pakistan. In fact, when teaching students, I always suggested to use this option rather than looking for your actual monitor. "Just look for that Non-interlaced one... Its the only one there!"
This option seems to have disappeared on modern distributions.
XFree86 / Xorg please bring it back!

Again for XFree86 / Xorg...

I have a Trident Cyberblade video card. That is like saying "I have a computer". It doesn't describe my card at all! There are dozens of variations - all called Cyberblade. I hate distributions that automatically select this card because they always get it wrong!

The Swap

Here is a question that brings different views from different groups. How big should it be?
Old view was that it should be twice your ram or 128M whichever comes first.
New view is that it should be as big as can be!
OpenOffice is an enormous program which certainly won't run unless you have a combined ram/swap of at least 300megs and it's so slow unless you have 512M of real ram!
On a liveCD, what do you do? S.u.S.E. has an answer - it creates a swap file on your hard disk if you require it. Good point! Ask first - don't just make it! My only criticism is that it is too small (100M).
LiveCD makers should think twice before including OpenOffice if they haven't made adequate arrangements for the swap.

The install program

Graphical installs suck! Mostly because of the vga= problem outlined above. Also because they cannot recover from a CD read error and skip a "bad" package. Text mode installs can be just as user friendly and much faster!. I particularly like the Slackware style where you get to choose what to install according to categories. Alinux (Peanut) has a nice simple system which is understandable mostly, but it installs a complete system - without any choices. Now if these two programs could be combined, we would have a reasonably user friendly install system.

I really don't need Japanese fonts as part of the base system!!!

Number one hate is RedHat and Mandrake installation programs which give you a choice of categories to install - then installs dozens of packages you didn't want!
There should be on option to install everything - but only if "Everything" really means "Everything in my language".


Is the Internet a network? Yes, of course it is - of a kind! A home computer user who wants Internet connectivity but is not connected to any local network has a problem of what packages to install. Normally, a full networking setup is installed, much of which is not needed, and indeed could open the computer to security threats. Average Joe user isn't a networking expert! Therefore, people who design install programs should try to separate these two subjects.


Windows has been described by Bill Gates as an entertainment system. Well so is Linux if you want it that way! So people, if you include the multimedia applications - give us the codecs too! There is nothing worse than finding a program installed that won't work because something is missing.

Mouse setup

If a three button mouse is selected, automatically assume that it is a wheel mouse and enable the wheel. Afterall, if it is not a wheel mouse, the extra line in XF86config won't make any difference.

Sound Wars!!!

There seems to be a war going on between ALSA and OSS camps which leave us poor users in a state of silent distress. I would say that 95% of all distributions that I have tried recently fail to provide any sound output without a lot of tweaking. And it is not a new problem - RedHat 7.0 had it too. A new user stands no chance of ever hearing sound.
The problem is simply in device allocation, as I see it.

/dev/dsp doesn't exist on most systems but both sound systems want to use it! Whoever thought of sending the default sound output to /dev/null? We have some crazies in our Linux community!
This, as will undoubtedly be argued, is not a fault of either ALSA or OSS. Well, yes it is! Both camps should ensure that the devices to be used are actually available and that appropriate modules are loaded. This kind of "checking" is what makes GOOD software. Can you imagine XFree86 working without knowing the video card? Sound is no different.
Fixing the problem, by an experienced person, is not as easy as it first appears since we first have to figure out which system is in use. The config files are in different places. Sometimes both systems are active which obviously leads to conflicts.
Getting one soundcard to work is bad enough, but if you have two...

I have a Pixelview TV card which many distributions incorrectly identify as a soundcard. Yes, it is an audio device but it is physically wired to the real soundcard! Murphy's Law states that this card will be allocated as the primary sound device. Convincing the system that it isn't involves a lot of juggling of the module loading order and rc.d files. Not for a Newbie!!!

I don't want to take sides, ALSA and OSS are both good in my opinion, but we really only need one system. And one that works flawlessly first time!

A lot of complaints so far... What do I like?

Mepis has a nice liveCD which can also install to harddisk. Try before you install is a really great idea! Plus, this system can be correctly configured and expanded. There is no case of "Use what is on the CD or forget it!".

Slax is great because you can copy everything on the CD to a directory on your harddisk (FAT32 partition), change the Loadlin config file to suit, then boot from DOS anytime you want. It makes an excellent rescue tool. Now if Slax could only tell its new users how to do this, they would have a winner!
Other distributions should also consider using Loadlin. It really isn't old and out of date as some consider - it's useful!

Apodio should be mentioned here. I don't necessarily like it because I haven't really experienced it fully yet. It requires a much more powerful computer than mine to function correctly. It is a specialist's dream if you are in to video and audio work. It is nice to see special purpose Linux CD's - there should be more!
Apodio isn't complete yet (at the time of writing), and many applications use French language but I see a bright future for this one.

"Parted" is slowly getting towards a "user friendly" disk partitioning system. It still needs much more work in my opinion, but full marks for trying! This is the one area of work which will really bring Linux to the masses if we succeed in automating the disk partitioning and formatting.

"wvdial" stands out as the ONLY system which can handle the CDMA modem/phone devices. There are a variety of GUI frontends available but few are up to date and most need compiling. We need ready made ones for use on liveCD's.
S.u.S.E.'s excellent "kinternet" should be made universally available for all distributions.

What flavor of Linux do I use?

Well, I keep changing as I find new ones. I like to try everything. That is part of the fun of Linux - we have so much choice. I have not found any that couldn't be made to work, except Fedora Core4 which so far stubbornly refuses to install on my computer! However, I'll tame it eventually. My only real preference is the kde desktop. I've tried the others but keep coming back to kde.

Linux has come a long way since I started using it (version 5.0). Now, it really can do everything that Microsoft Windows does, and much more of course. So, let us make it more friendly to install.

Finally, I would like to request developers to keep Linux an individual OS - that is, I don't want my Linux to look like Windoze!

by Gethyn on Wed, 2006-06-21 10:20
In my experience, installing most versions of Linux isn't any more difficult than installing Windows (as in, most people I know can't figure out how to install either!)

by awtoc123 on Mon, 2006-07-17 02:48
I would say that Suse 10.1 is 1000% easier to install than Windowsm, on my Sony Vaio I install using the 5 CD's and everything is working first time, and you have all software installed at the same time on my Sony the complete installation took less than 50 mim, now when I installed Windows XP on the same computer I had to go the device manager and look at 9 yellow ! and then try to find various drivers which should have been part of Windows, even then some 3 hours later I had the same problem with printers, and scanners, all which is part of the Suse kernel, and no need to fiddle with installing drivers, think when you install Suse you have all possible software installed at the same time even CD burner software office pack and many more, in Windows what do you have ? Nothing other than Windows OS and Internet explorer + Outlook Express, then you have the ease if you are not expert and somehow crach Suse, just re-install and you don't loose any data or short cuts. Then there is the quistion about speed when you only have Windows installed it is almost as fast as Suse, but when you have all programmes installed Windows are mega slow, where in Suse there is no difference with or without many software packages, so my point is the other way round " Should Windows be made as easy to install and use as Linux ? " I live in China where Windows cost less than USD 0.06 Cents and you are right it is difficult to get people to use Linux when they was brain washed with Windows, and it only cost USD 0.06 Cents even it is very insecure, and get virus and need frequent re-installs, still they buy the Windows, we are here to help the government install Linux servers, and Windows workstations, and even big companies and government are using pirated Windows, but in our office we are 100% Linux and we manage like this, to me in a normal office envoirement there is nothing you can do in Windows you can not do in Linux, Star Office 8 and openoffice 2.0 are 99.9% Microsoft compatiable. REMEMBER time is money and if you all the time have to re-boot and re-install AND RUN ANTIVIRUS then you are loosing valuable time, and when you loos your data then what ?

by IBall on Mon, 2006-07-17 04:30
You do have some valid points, but:

Have you tried Ubuntu. The latest Ubuntu comes as a live CD. There is a link on the desktop that allows the OS to be installed, which brings up a very simple graphical installer. I don't think it can get more simple than this.

I recently installed both Windows and Ubuntu on a friends machine. Windows took 2.5 hours to create a C: partition on the 320GB drive (brand new, quite fast machine). Windows itself took another hour, and then about an hour to install everything else (GFX drivers, sound drivers, ...).
Ubuntu was installed and running in 45mins.

Other distros such as Fedora are also very simple to install.

So what distro were you basing most of that on? Lots of it sounded like Slackware, which, IMHO, is not really suitable for newbies anyway.


by FreeDoughnut on Wed, 2006-07-19 12:03
So people, if you include the multimedia applications - give us the codecs too!
I'm not sure about the copyright laws in Pakistan, but in the US, that's considered illegal.
...I don't want my Linux to look like Windoze!
Linux is not Windows. I agree with that statement, but almost everything else you've asked for is emulating Windows.
Linux has come a long way since I started using it (version 5.0)
What? Are you talking about the kernel? Are you talking about a specific distro? Then tell us what!
Afterall, if it is not a wheel mouse, the extra line in XF86config won't make any difference.
That's pretty wrong. Say you have a 5 button mouse. You try to set it so the button on the side skips the current song in XMMS. But everytime click it, it scrolls up in the web page you're reading. That's what'd happen with this.
Let us make Linux more friendly to install
Us? Who's this us? You don't have a basis to say that unless you contribute to the open source community. I don't either, but I don't go around bashing the jobs the coders have done. So if you want to "make Linux more friendly to install" then start programming it yourself! Also, most of these points are after installation. You don't listen to music from the computer you're installing from.

by awtoc123 on Fri, 2006-07-21 05:16
Iball Well it is Suse 10. and Suse 10.1 I changed from redhat to suse last year and is very happy with Suse now

by petersum on Tue, 2006-07-25 17:19
Right! Windows is indeed much more difficult to install and it wastes so much time. My point is that Linux could be made even easier than it is at present, particularly for first time users. This is, afterall, a Linux site so I didn't expect or intend to have a Windows / Linux comparison thread.
How many buttons can fit on a mouse? I did mention "three button mice" specifically!
My understanding of Linux Codecs is that they are not copies that infringe copyright laws, but rather are original pieces of software that are totally different to those used on the Windows platforms, even though they perform a similar function. Certainly most have been around for many years, and I haven't seen any court cases disputing these. Perhaps you know better! Regardless, many distributions do include them as standard.
Bashing the coders!!! No way - I am one of them. I am a perl programmer mostly.
My first experience was with RedHat 5.0, quickly followed by Mandrake. Now I am using Alinux by the 'Peanut' people - Why did they change the name? I also use SuSE CD quite regularly. As for the Slackware reference, that was a wrong guess, but understandable because I admit to prefering the BSD style init system rather than the SysV - another example of the wonderful choices Linux users have!
My surprise comes from the fact that so few replies have been posted so far. I, and the staff of LQ, expected a lot of response. I believe that constructive criticism can help to make Linux better.

by RobertP on Sun, 2006-08-13 20:50
I have never seen an installation of that other OS that was not much harder to do than Linux. Since that seems to be the standard. I would say that Linux is already very easy to install. In 2000 I installed Caldera. It let me play pac man or something equally silly while I installed. If that is not easy, I do not know what is. Since then, most distros have introduced similar ease. Next week I am going to install six machines using a USB drive to start a network install from a server. I do not even need to burn CDs. I only need a single USB drive because the stuff is transferred to RAM and I can run to the other machines. How easy is that? To get any easier the installer would have to chat with us through the speakers and listen to us on a mic.

A typical basic Linux installation on a modern machine from a single CD takes about 12 minutes limited by the speed of the CD. Since I will be using gigabit/s networking (1000X in CD lingo?), I expect to be breathless from jogging from one machine to the other hitting "enter". Next I will have to use FAI (Fully Automated Installation).

by kwill on Wed, 2007-10-03 01:50
I realise that this is an old posting but it is in a similar vein to a idea I was about to put to Jeremy.

I agree with petersum that the installation process is tedious -unless doing a standard install and that could be very dangerous to your hard drive data. RobertP says that Linux can install on a modern machine in 12 minutes, O.K. maybe on a blank hard drive BUT many machines that could (and should to reduce waste) do not have Gigabit networks let alone multi core 4 Ghz CPU's. It would also be very basic to fit on a single CD.

The times that I have had the partitioning stage crash or had to kill it because it would not be acceptable are numerous, even sucessful partioning is not a guarantee of sucessful installation especially with multi boot installations. Not being able to use existing partions but requiring they be deleted and remade is utterly stupid.

Mandrake, Red Hat and Fedora used to allow for the selection of applications but most current Distributions do not. The automatic installation of ALL posibible language fonts is a total waste of time and disk space. Many distributions also include ISDN and start it as a system service by default. Another horror is the installation of some compose latin keysetup which changes the 'backspace' key to insert a 'caret', some versions also seem to change the function of the 'delete' key when used on a command line. If one has given ones locale why then are all options given for NTP servers not just the closest. Similarly with the time zone setting, why are ALL U.S.A states listed separately and other counties listed at the end of along list?

Video problems are another factor, having installed using graphical installation method why on earth does the video not work when booting up? (Has happened more than once.) Over half of the installations tried by myself (mostly earlier distibutions) have the nosound (redirected to /dev/null) problem. Though PCLinux still has the problem too.

My experience with Live CD's has been varied, two versions of Knoppix seemed to cause failure of hardware. Mepis 3.3 was (and still is) good. Did most every thing I wanted especially seeing disks on other machines in either Samba or NFS BUT when I tried Mepis on two machines they would not see/talk to each other. When installed it also installed Guarddog in it's most locked down mode but did not say so. Only downside no Midnight Commander.

What have I done today? Spent half the day trying to setup a old computer as a printserver, sucess? NO! so far 9 attemps and nothing working yet.

by RobertP on Wed, 2007-10-03 07:32
If you want to make an installation tedious, just require approval for thousands of obscure packages...

The installer usually uses vesa or a simple VGA framebuffer. The target tries to boot with 3-D acceleration capability using a particular driver for the chipset which may not work. It would be better if a failed Xserver could switch to a more certain configuration.

The print server on an old machine occurs often enough there should be a distro or installation option for it. Try a minimal Debian installation + cupsys + cupsys-bsd + cupsys-driver-gutenprint (no GUI, fewer problems). Open it up for http://host:631 configuration and you should have the job done easily. I find it useful to have sshd installed with auto-login for control/upgrades controlled from a single computer.

by kwill on Thu, 2007-10-04 21:05
Try Debian?, of three previous times, once got so lost in the old installion system I gave up. Next time managed to instal something, I think but it wasn't useable. Third time it installed (later version) but then when booted couldn't find its own hard drive - only one disk, whole disk available. that's on different machines. That doesn't count a few other times tried to use loadlin -that also failed.

Not had time today to continue so no progress. One problem is that it only boots CD's. Tried fitting DVD but no joy booting DVD's and not much hope of a bios upgrade from Big Blue.


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