Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Family problems with Ubuntu

As much as I hate to say it, my family has asked me if I could switch the PC back to Windows. It's not that I want to push Linux on them; it's that my mom almost entirely uses programs like Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice and I see no real reason to have her use Windows for that, especially since Linux is more secure than Windows.

Most of the problems have been with Firefox 4. Flash won't display right in Facebook games; certain sites won't submit form data correctly; clicking certain "Submit" buttons sometimes doesn't work. Stupid stuff, to be sure. On top of that, though, my brother was trying to use Google Voice to call someone and discovered the the audio was terribly, terribly noisy when he tried to use the microphone, and he couldn't fix it no matter what he tried (which was actually a good amount). Lastly, a problem that I have been unable to solve for quite some time is that VirtualBox will freeze the system occasionally when starting the Windows XP VM.

It's little things like this that push people away from Linux. As my brother has said (paraphrased), "It seems like Linux solves a lot of problems, but you have to deal with a ton of stupid stuff that you just assume should work." I realize that things like Firefox having issues is not necessarily Ubuntu's fault, but my mom doesn't know that. When she comes to me for help, she says "I'm having a problem on Linux," no matter what the problem is.


The main reason they want to switch is that we are actually going to soon be living several states away and she's afraid that she won't be able to deal with Ubuntu without me. I think that she's going to be "out of luck" when a problem arises on any platform.

I'm going to try switching them to openSUSE for a month and if it doesn't work out, I'm going to have to (regretfully) switch her back to Windows. But here's hoping it won't come to that.
-Bry

PS - This is the first time I have been discontent with something and not really "ranted" about it. I'm not really mad at Ubuntu, I'm just disappointed.

[UPDATE 7-12]
Well, it turns out openSUSE let me down. I decided to /home directory to its own partition to make it a little bit safer (and a smoother distro hop), but YaST refused to let me do it. I persevered as long as I could, but eventually I just said "screw this", ran downstairs and grabbed my Mint 10 KDE DVD. It quickly and easily set up my partitions, I copied the data over, and ran the install.

My family have been out of town so they really haven't had much time to try it out, but I don't think they've had many problems yet. It took me a few hours to set up Skype just because it is a 64 bit install and that didn't play nice with the Logitech webcam. The only other problem they still have is that every time they run MintUpdate, a box pops up that says "Fix the broken packages first." Of course, then I go to Synaptic and sift through the "Broken", and there's nothing. So I don't know what's up with that.

But I set up a nice alias in the terminal so that all they have to do is type "update" and it will run "sudo apt-get update", which works fine, so they should be good.

(I've been really grooving on aliases by the way.)

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