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petersum 06-20-2006 04:45 PM

DISCUSSION: Let us make Linux more friendly to install.
This thread is to discuss the article titled:
Let us make Linux more friendly to install.


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.

Gethyn 06-21-2006 10:20 AM

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!)

awtoc123 07-17-2006 02:48 AM

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 ?

IBall 07-17-2006 04:30 AM

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.


FreeDoughnut 07-19-2006 12:03 PM


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.

awtoc123 07-21-2006 05:16 AM

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

petersum 07-25-2006 05:19 PM

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.

RobertP 08-13-2006 08:50 PM

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).

kwill 10-03-2007 01:50 AM

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.

RobertP 10-03-2007 07:32 AM

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.

kwill 10-04-2007 09:05 PM

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.

GrapefruiTgirl 10-04-2007 11:00 PM

There are a few valid points made in this thread.. I haven't (atleast not yet) read the article about which this thread is intended to critique, but just wanted to throw in a few comments and ideas.

1) I have better than half a dozen Linuxes here, all of which I have installed or tried to install atleast once. I too went through the "..which distro for me??" phase. That was less than a year ago. 9 months to be exact, is how long I have been using Linux. Here are what I tried, in approx. order I tried them in, and a BRIEF comment for each:

Ubuntu 6.10 - LiveCD is handy, but installing is long, slow, and last time I tried, it hung up and quit. Acts like Windows. Best thing about it is it includes Gparted. :/
Gentoo - I got it installed eventually, but I don't think it's for beginners, and I didn't like it anyway, possibly because I didn't have a clue how to use it..
OpenLX-Edge 1.0 - I haven't a clue about this; it hated my hardware, turning my monitor off no matter what I did; wouldn't install completely AFAICT.
Slackware 11.0 - Installed without a hitch, but took me 2 or 3 installs to learn what I was doing with the partitions I was making. Had I known anything about Linux filesystem structure at the beginning, one install would have been sufficient.
Absolute Slack 11.0.5 - Installed slick as could be, not a single issue of any kind whatsoever.
Knoppix 5.1.1 - Great distro, nice LiveCD. Installed without a hitch, no problems whatsoever. Good docs too.
EasYs 3.x - Slackware-based. Installed easier than easy. Simple, and fully functional Out-of-the-box. Like it a lot.
Slax - LiveCD only AFAIK. Slackware-based. Ran without a hitch, worked perfectly out-of-box. Easy to use.

Now I dunno about you folks reading this, but I see a pattern here. I realize that this selection is but a TINY fraction of the distros available out there, but of THESE ones, I had the LEAST amount of troubles installing what I now know to be considered some of the MORE ADVANCED distros. Remember I was fresh off the WIndoze bandwagon at that time too. Over a two week period was during which I tried out all these ATLEAST once, and usually several times, depending on how the install went. FOr example, OpenLX and Gentoo, I re-installed repeatly to see if there was anything I was missing. OpenLX never ever did install and run. Maybe with what I know today I could install it, who knows...
With Slackware 11, the only thing that prevented me from immediately beginning to use my installation was that it started in runlevel 3. Back then I didn't have a %$#^@ clue what that meant, or why I was looking at a black console, but I messed around for 2 days before I went on another computer and read the docs on the Slackware website, which if I had done in the first place, would have learned me that I needed to type 'startx'. I can hardly call this a flaw, nor can I call it an oversight on Pat's part, nor can I blame anyone but myself for not READING the DOCS. "This is NOT a beginners distro," we all say. Well if people would READ the documentation available on their choice of Linux, they would avoid the majority of such problems and hitches when installing as a new user.
Once I typed 'startx', I became a dedicated Slackware fan within a few hours, and Slackware has not left my system ever since, regardless what happens around it, elsewhere in my machine. Sure, it's complicated in many ways, and non-intuitive in other ways, however, it all comes down to READING THE DOCS. IMHO, Slackware actually *could* be a great distro for more beginners, IF they had a good chunk of documentation in front of them, and/or had READ said documentation before diving in and complaining later that it "was hard to install."

RE: Windows, well if it weren't for the fact that 10-billion machines on this planet, from Aloha to Zimbabwe, run virtually the same OS, then people out there would be in the EXACT SAME boat with Windoze. ANd speaking of Windows, though it has already been mentioned above, it IS a pain in the A$$ to install that too! It takes better than an hour on my 320GB drive to prepare, and another 40 mins or so to install, including several reboots in between, and then it won't accept its reg. key and I need to use the telephone to get a new reg key to get the thing working, and once I'm logged in it wants to go on the internet for HOURS and HOURS and HOURS, and reboot a bunch of times and make me click boxes at inopportune times; I can't leave it unattended, or it will NEVER be installed, I gotta hold its friggin hand. It took me a week to install Service Pack II because I have Dialup. After that, as also mentioned elsewhere in here, I needed just shy of 100 updates, which meant another week downloading junk and rebooting the machine a half-dozen times per day.

I was going to make this post into some sort of sectional thing, but I've lost track, but I do remember whare I was going to go eventually, so before we all get bored, let me say this:

If a person, such as whoever started this thread, wanted Linux to be easier to install, then they would need to take it upon themselves to figure out a way to have the AVAILABLE DOCUMENTATION presented to the user, upon commencing to install a distro, and have then be given the RECOMMENDED OPTION of reading the ENTIRE LOOOOONG DOCUMENTATION TUTORIAL BEFORE CONTINUING, or, in the case of someone who does know what they're doing, a button or option to SKIP THE DOCS and start installing. This documentation, should at the top, give the user a website address where they can go to read and follow along with the documentation while they install, or view and maybe print onto paper using another computer, and they can read it while installing, and at each stap they find difficult, there will be a chunk of manual dealing with various scenarios that could unfold at said difficult step.

Most of the issues associated with Linux being .."difficult to install," are very well documented. The 'problem' is that people cannot/did not/will not SEE or READ this documentation at the VERY START of their installation. The reasons? It's on the CD and they didn't know it..... Or It's on the internet somewhere, and they haven't read it...... They are too lazy and cannot be bothered....... OR because they just want it to install magically all by itself once the disc is in the drive (which incidentally it pretty much DOES ;) once you tell it what to put where!) and they figure, "there's no need to read anything to simply install this thing, is there??" :confused:

"Why don't the distro makers do this?" you ask: Why should they!? All the information is already out there for you to print, read, study, whatever. Nothing is missing, it just isn't right infront of you, reading itself to you! IMHO the distro makers have gone above and beyond the call of duty, merely by tirelessly, often without due credit and st their own expense (time/money/whatever), producing for us lowly users these wonderful collections of free software packages we know as Linux flavour <insert-flavour-here.<version-here>.

lboog123 10-05-2007 07:15 AM

More user friendly distros needed.
Linux does need to be a lot more user friendly to install. People are usually reluctant to switch from Windows, so making Linux as user friendly as possible is very important.

The ubuntu live cd is a step in the right direction, but I have given it to a few friends and it has hung up on their machine. Once this happens they are very reluctant to try Linux again. Their needs to be a Linux distro that is simply,plug and play easy.

saikee 10-05-2007 09:05 AM

There is one major difference between Linux and Winodws as far as I am aware. In Linux there is no driver needed in the installation. That brings to Iboog123's problem because if there is a mismatch in the video driver the user thinks the system hangs but it may not necessarily the case. The problem is just a break down in the communication. Selecting text mode installation or forcing the kernel to use "vesa" mode or a specifying a specific VGA mode could overcome the communication problem.

There has been a huge advance in the last few years in the hardware detection in Linux and modern Linux can outperform a M$ system in the installation front. Many systems can be installed in about 6 minutes asking only 6 to 7 standard questions like

the country, (so that the correct language is loaded)
keyboard type, (so the the correct keboard is installed)
time zone, (as a reference to the filing system)
username, (everything is Linux has an owner)
user password, (protection of files owned by the user)
root password (not demanded in Ubuntu family distro) and
the partition the user wishes the system to reside in
Optionally the boot loader location may be selctable (This is necessary if you multi-boot)

Linux installers are also pretty standard nowaday. Red Hat/Fedora has Anaconda, Suse and Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) have their own equivalent. Knoppix-installer is one of the simplest around. Debian family and Gentoo familes installers are also dead simple to follow, especially if the user has broadband and the Internet is accessed by DHCP protocol by the network card.

I would say if a user has a destination partition for a Linux he/she will not find difficulty in the installation. Most problems are due to the user unprepared for the installation without a partition ready for Linux.

Vista is on par with modern Linux but previous MS Windows are a lot harder to install. Try to install a Win9x yourself and you will appreciate how slick and simple Linux installation is.

In My opinion Linux is not difficult to install at all. If a user has a problem answering the above questions and cannot supply them then he/she is better off to stick with M$ system. Linux does require a slightly higher level of intelligence to use because its security arrangement (like every file has an ownership).

As a proof of how easy Linux installation is I have successfully installed Linux from over 40 different countries in many languages I do not understand a single word. I survive on the common festures of the installers and alter the language and keyboard back to English after their installations.

kwill 10-09-2007 05:18 PM

Users are unprepared without having a partion ready for Linux, what about those distro's that insist on making their own partion and do not alllow installation into existing partions? Another nasty, especially if multi booting, is distro's that put the information in /etc/stab as a long string of alpha/numeric rather than as /dev/hda? because if any partion is changed the alpha/numeric code changes and things no longer work.

Well eventually after another day and a half of trying, I have got an a working Suse 10.1. During all those attempts the keyboard died just to be another hinderance. My original intention was to use Ubuntu 6.06lts but my CD would not work. It was OK couple of months ago, not having the iso still, wasn't able to burn a new one which is where my troubles started. Having failed with so many I looked on a magazine DVD that had Ubuntu 6.06 on it but not as iso. Not being able to boot DVD's I wondered about using floppy image to boot either DVD or via network. In the distro was program to enable CD to boot on old machines -would it enable DVD to boot? Well after some troubles (Dud new floppy!) sucess. Then to find distro that worked, several didn't Ubuntu 6.06 was one. Suse did, very slow though, spent most of its time 'analysing system'. Did it work? of course not! It found a problem with a partition on the harddisk. Well 'vi' to the rescue and comment out that partition in /etc/fstab and continue. I have just logged in as user and have yet to finish off setting up. First to find out why the machine is not talking to the internet so that can download HPLIP for my printer/scannner and then get it going (still waiting for HP to reply to email 2 months ago re a problem).

I would say that 'vi' (and it's work alikes) is one of the biggest turnoffs to using Linux. Is there nothing better for usae as the standard? editor? Twenty years ago "Pcwrite" was a marvelous Dos editor intuative, good help on screen. Vi is awful it gives how to get out without saving on it's help but not how to save!

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