Last night, after several months of not having a Linux box, I decided to get one back up and running. I’ve been following some of the new developments with Gnome and Mono and have been impressed with how clean and usable some of the apps that have come out recently are looking. I’ve also read quite a bit about Ubuntu, a Debian (my favorite flavor of Linux) based distro that is designed for usability and runs Gnome 2.8.
I downloaded Ubuntu last night (in 17 minutes at 502 Kbps!, thank you Cox) and installed it fairly painlessly on my old Pentium II 450mhz Gateway computer. It installed quickly and ran well, even fast on such an old machine. It also looks great. The default theme is very earthy, which fits nicely with the Ubuntu philosophy.
That’s about where the pleasant experience ended. Like I mentioned before, I wanted to install some applications I’ve read about, specifically:
- Muine – simple music player
- Tomboy – desktop wiki
- Beagle – powerful search tool
- Blam! – simple rss feed reader
I started and almost immediately found myself stuck. The nice thing about Debian is that you can use apt-get (or aptitude, as I prefer) to download and automatically install many applications. I started with Blam!. Perfect, it installed great, ran great and is an impressive application.
I moved on to Beagle. It wasn’t in the apt repository so I decided to build it from source. Oh… wait, Ubuntu doesn’t come with a C compiler. I installed one. Hmm. It doesn’t come with Mono. I installed it. It doesn’t come with Evolution-sharp 0.3. Not in apt either. I got it from source and tried to configure it. It was missing a bunch of *-sharp applications. Most were not in apt. Forget it.
Next was Tomboy. Not in apt. Again, I downloaded it and started to install it from source. It needed a Perl module, XML::Parse. I tried to install it using CPAN, but it turned out CPAN needed updating. I let that go for about 20 minutes and came back to it. Tried to install it again, it kept failing. I searched and found it needed some other application (I can’t remember the name) that was in apt, I installed it, XML::Parse installed fine and went back to configure Tomboy. No dice. Missing more packages, again, not in apt and when I started compiling them from source I fell into the same dependency nightmares.
Muine was a similar story, I didn’t spend as much time on it, but was not able to get it running.
I know this is nothing new, but it really is indicative of the difference between Linux and OS X. If people are going to adopt Linux and use it successfully, installing applications really needs to be much simpler, even if that means including libraries and increasing the size of the binaries, whatever it takes, it has to be done.
When I wrote this, I didn’t realized I wrote about a similar Linux experience just a couple entries ago. It’s been a few days. Just to clarify, when I said I haven’t had a Linux box for a few months, I meant at home. I’ve had a dedicated Linux server for a couple years now.
Also: I have decided on a Wiki. More to come on that soon…