Linux, ready for the desktop? I don't think so...

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by -=rjh=-, Oct 31, 2006.

  1. -=rjh=-

    -=rjh=- Guest

    Friends' PC has just died (bad caps) so while I get around to replacing
    them, thought I'd loan them an old PC - just to do email and the like.
    To avoid Windows licensing issues, thought I'd chuck on Ubuntu, that way
    I don't have to mess around for hours installing applications. Quick and
    dirty is important here, and being a good way to show off Linux a bonus.
    Or so I thought.

    Ubuntu 6.10 installs perfectly, looks and runs great. Friends can't help
    but be impressed (they hate free software - with a vengeance).

    I use Linux a lot, and I think it really is the bees knees, but always
    in a networked environment. I've never used dialup networking.

    For this box, dialup networking is a showstopper; in fact, from what I
    can see, the state of modem connections is appalling. I'd originally
    loaded Ubuntu onto a laptop, then realised within a few minutes that
    configuring a WinModem was going to be a nightmare*. Even with an old
    ISA serial modem, there (AFAICT) are few tools to configure the modem
    and none to test with. I know about wvdial, but this box has to be 100%
    easy to use, or this just gives Linux a bad name.

    For a newbie home user, this really is a showstopper; I could poke
    around and sort it, but I'm not going to waste my time, because they'll
    probably scrub it and load Windows anyway.

    If Ubuntu is the premier easy to use Linux desktop distribution, Linux
    on the desktop is in deep shit. Even Windows 95 has easier to use tools
    for configuring dialup networking!

    *excuse me? Open a console, use wget to download scanModem? extract?
    make executable? use sudo to run and then view output text file?

    Every step of the process would present major hurdles to a Linux newbie.

    (And that, my friends, is just to find out what chipset the modem has!)
    -=rjh=-, Oct 31, 2006
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  2. -=rjh=-

    Earl Grey Guest

    Perhaps just use an external serial modem
    I have bought 3 Dynalink vqh1456 modems for less than $5 each recently
    and I have been able to dial in to my ubuntu box as well as dial out.
    I set it up from the networking tab, it was easy.
    Earl Grey, Oct 31, 2006
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  3. -=rjh=-

    BrianM Guest

    Pity you hadn't used Kubuntu, or the KDE desktop in some distro, then you
    could have configured the dialup tool KPPP in about 20 seconds and been
    on the net.
    There are tools out there, you just have to know where to find them.
    BrianM, Oct 31, 2006
  4. -=rjh=-

    Fred Dagg Guest

    I think that was his point, though. A newbie doesn't "know where to
    find them", and there's no easy way to set up a pretty fundamental
    Fred Dagg, Oct 31, 2006
  5. While this is all true, in modern parlance it's "blaming the victim".

    The reason that winmodems are poorly supported is that no sod will release the
    specifications required to write a driver for the scuzzy things.

    In modern parlance this is anticompetitive behaviour, a cartel and self-defeating.

    Back in the day when companies actually marketed their products to sell them,
    data on electronic components was freely available as the backbone of the
    marketing strategy allowing anyone to write drivers.

    By way of a contrast, I recently installed Dapper on a Toshiba Satellite
    T2550CDT and was surprised to find that everything worked including the
    integrated winmodem. Nice. I expect that windmodem support will work fine in a
    year, about the same time that dialup access is no longer available.

    Is it by chance a new bug in 6.10 ?
    Mark Robinson, Oct 31, 2006
  6. -=rjh=-

    NilEinne Guest

    I wonder if you're missing the point. I'm not denying that the primary
    reason for hardware issues is because hardware developers don't release
    the necessary info to develop drivers and don't release drivers
    themselves (or if they do they're closed sourced and pretty crappy).
    However, in the end it's irrelevant. No one is arguing about the ethics
    or whether it's Linux's fault. While that's a very interesting issue,
    to the end user it's irrelevant. What matters is whether it works or
    not. If something important doesn't work, then whoever's fault it is,
    it still prevents the end user from using it so it's still a problem.

    Now you can try and argue a user should choose a computer with hardware
    which is properly supported by the developer and this is an interesting
    argument but when the user is saying I have this computer and it
    doesn't work, it's not exactly a good argument IMHO. Sure you could say
    the user is at fault for choosing the crappy hardware but the user
    could just as well say screw you and screw Linux, it works on Windows
    so I don't care. Both are valid arguments IMHO.

    In any case, according to this user even with an ISA serial modem (i.e.
    a proper modem) there a few tools to get it working. I don't use Ubuntu
    or Linux myself (prefer FreeBSD) nor do I use modems anymore so can't
    comment on the accuracy of this but according to the poster it isn't
    just winmodems.
    NilEinne, Oct 31, 2006
  7. -=rjh=-

    Who Am I Guest

    LOL, just like every issue in Windows is Microsofts problem ?
    It seems to matter bugger all that the owner of the machine has applied
    all sorts of hacks or that the "crash" was a 3rd party application,
    windows get the blame.
    Who Am I, Oct 31, 2006
  8. -=rjh=-

    Earl Grey Guest

    The network tab has the modem listed as a network connection, and thats
    where you set up the number and username/password.
    What the OP was looking for was support for a winmodem which doesn't
    have a driver provided by its manufacturer or included in the operating
    Some modem chipset vendors do support linux driver projects and often
    Agere modems in laptops work out of the box.
    A linux newbie with a desktop should take the advice offered earlier and
    get an external modem off trademe.
    Earl Grey, Oct 31, 2006
  9. -=rjh=-

    -=rjh=- Guest

    That is correct - for Ubuntu, at least. But there is a big difference
    between 6.06 and 6.10, the latter has made the interface more confusing,
    with important settings moved to rear tabs, and they've dropped the
    "Autodetect Modem" button, so there is no way to get any feedback or
    confirmation about the modem. There is no easy and obvious way to
    troubleshoot any problems you might have with your modem.

    And even if the modem is installed correctly, there is no explicit way
    to connect to or disconnect from your ISP.

    KPPP in Kubuntu at least has more interaction, and has a "Query Modem"

    But the dialup settings are in KPPP, which is in KMenu -> Internet,
    instead of any of the system settings locations; there is no consistency
    even within different distributions from the same project.

    Oh yeah, Kubuntu would run fine from CDROM but would freeze during
    installation to the laptop. But that is another issue.
    Totally wrong, you've misunderstood my point. I'm not looking for
    support for a WinModem (or any modem) at all.

    I want a Linux system that I can give to my friends that works straight
    out of the box, and that I am 100% confident that they'll be happy to
    use. It is not happening, even after all these years. There has been
    virtually no progress made in this aspect of Linux for the past 3-4 years.

    Sure, I could set up the box for them and sort all their issues, but
    that is at best, a work around, does nothing but cover up the
    shortcomings of these distributions.

    Saying that distribution X is better, or I should have used tool Y, or
    that tools are available, if you know where to look is just not helpful.
    How does that help the newbie home user? It is ignoring the basic issue
    that I've raised here. And anyway, how does a newbie find these tools if
    their most basic form of connectivity to the internet does work straight
    out of the box!
    What? How does that help to promote Linux? Sorry, but we'll have to
    clutter up your desk with all this other crap so that you can run Linux,
    even though you didn't need to do this for Windows?

    Now, I'm really surprised - an external modem is no better; I have no
    way of easily telling what Ubuntu thinks of it, but Kubuntu can't find a
    serial modem hanging off the back of the PC.

    But don't concentrate of the modem issue; it isn't relevant. Ease of use
    and perception is relevant here. How confident can I be that whatever
    printer they've got will work as soon as they plug it in? Scanner? ipod?

    And remember, a potential newbie Linux user has probably invested
    exactly $0.00 into Linux, there is very little incentive to stick with
    it, fiddle around and get problems sorted. Whereas the average Windows
    user either gets the system already installed with all issues sorted, or
    will invest time sorting it themselves, because it has cost them a few
    hundred dollars already.

    Don't misunderstand me - I've used Linux for years, and I'll continue to
    do so. But thinking that it is currently suitable for the average home
    user is just dreaming at present.
    -=rjh=-, Oct 31, 2006
  10. -=rjh=-

    Zipper Guest

    I would agree, I tested the latest Kubuntu as that was said to be one
    of the nicest desktops for out of the box. I found trying to play a
    xvid movie on it an absolute nightmare and forums are littered with
    people having problems getting codecs installed. Someone suggested a
    GUI installer that I could download for Kubuntu but installing that
    required going into the shell and running commands etc and even when
    that was installed and it downloaded everything I needed to play an xvid
    movie they still failed to play at which point I gave up, just couldn't
    be bothered wasting time on what should be something so simple eg go to
    this site, download this, double click it, now you can watch xvid movies.
    Zipper, Nov 1, 2006
  11. But you are not the newbie, are you? You are the one setting up the Linux
    system to give to the newbies. So if you know where to look for the right
    tools and how to set them up to begin with, then that helps your newbie
    friends, doesn't it?
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 1, 2006
  12. -=rjh=-

    Earl Grey Guest

    Oh its just a rant
    You didn't want help with a modem at all.
    I'm not out to promote Linux, you're obviously mistaken.
    I'm just a Linux user who thought you wanted a hand.
    Ho ho ho I've been "help me" trolled
    Earl Grey, Nov 1, 2006
  13. Hi there,

    Why is that? Have trolls been whispering in their ear? How can
    they hate something they've never tried before?
    One word says all here - Winmodem. That you're knocking Linux
    because an unsupported Winmodem doesn't work is hardly fair.
    Is it the fault of Linux that the makers of the said Winmodem
    refuse to release crucial developer info to people wishing to
    create Linux drivers for it? Not at all...
    Linux on the desktop is doing just fine. As suggested elsewhere
    a cheap-as-chips 56k external, or 56k internal from DSE (check
    for Linux compatibility first) will work fine...

    Kind regards,

    Chris Wilkinson, Brisbane, Australia.
    Anyone wishing to email me directly can remove the obvious
    spamblocker, and replace it with t p g <dot> c o m <dot> a u
    Chris Wilkinson, Nov 1, 2006
  14. Hi there,

    If its that big a deal why don't you just get rid of Ubuntu,
    and get a cheap copy of Win 2K Pro or something? Really, its
    thru no fault of Linux that you cannot get a Winmodem working,
    and its only *one* experience you seem to base your judgement
    of Linux upon - your own...hardly fair cop!

    Kind regards,

    Chris Wilkinson, Brisbane, Australia.
    Anyone wishing to email me directly can remove the obvious
    spamblocker, and replace it with t p g <dot> c o m <dot> a u
    Chris Wilkinson, Nov 1, 2006
  15. -=rjh=-

    MaHogany Guest

    Have you tried installing a non-debian-based distro, such as SuSE or
    RedHat onto that PC?

    Ma Hogany
    MaHogany, Nov 1, 2006
  16. -=rjh=-

    -=rjh=- Guest

    Actually, an aversion to free software is more common than you might think.

    Sometimes it is a perception that you get what you pay for, so anything
    free is going to be of poor quality; sometimes it is because people have
    been caught out by free software that installs spyware or malware, or
    they've heard stories about that - unable to assess each case on its
    own, they assume all free software is risky. Or they genuinely believe
    that free software cannot possibly be legal.

    Sometimes people won't install any extra software than what came
    installed on the PC when they bought it.

    There is often a perception that (for example) OOo isn't compatible with
    other office suites; add to that that the average PC user is confused
    about the difference between Windows and Office anyway. If you suggest
    that they shouldn't buy Office, but use OOo instead, they'll wonder how
    they will be able to browse the internet!

    I've even struck the view that using free software just isn't "fair",
    and that people should be paid for their work.

    And that is leaving aside the whole OSS aspect, because that is
    something (like DRM) that most people are totally unaware of and they
    really do not care about.
    -=rjh=-, Nov 3, 2006
  17. T'was the Fri, 03 Nov 2006 17:52:29 +1300 when I remembered -=rjh=-
    Which is funny because a lot of it really is good quality software.
    Look at SugarCRM and Joomla, top class stuff there, and if you were
    paying for it, you'd expect that quality.

    It seems in the software world, money != quality. Which perhaps isn't
    such a bad thing.
    Waylon Kenning, Nov 3, 2006
  18. -=rjh=-

    Earl Grey Guest

    I don't know anyone who has an aversion to Firefox because it is free.

    I do know businesses who have been talked out of using linux by
    Microsoft vendors who claim that there is no support available for Linux.
    They are going to love MicroSuse
    Earl Grey, Nov 3, 2006
  19. -=rjh=-

    -=rjh=- Guest

    I used to think that way, a few years ago. I don't, anymore.

    I must be getting impatient, or maybe less tolerant. I've had to deal
    with hardware issues for the past ten or more years now - OS/2 hardware
    support was not great - and I'm getting pretty bloody sick of it.

    Despite incremental improvements, (and some significant ones - boot CDs
    are a major one I guess) Linux developments seems to have slowed
    somewhat. Many of the major desktop and other OSS apps that run on Linux
    are just as happy running on Windows these days so the OS isn't as

    That being the case, why spend a premium (time) setting up something
    that should work correctly out of the box?
    -=rjh=-, Nov 3, 2006
  20. -=rjh=-

    -=rjh=- Guest

    Chris, please read what I wrote a little more carefully.
    Of course I could do that, but (apart from the cost) this is an ideal
    opportunity to promote Linux - short time frame, temporary system, the
    sort of deal where somebody might be interested in giving it a try. But
    just as likely, not.

    Really, its
    Note that I was talking about an ISA serial modem; and more than the
    modem issue, also the lack of tools available to troubleshoot the problem.

    And I'm someone who is aware of the winmodem issue anyway - how would an
    installation look to somebody who didn't know they existed? While it
    isn't Linux's fault, it surely isn't going to be fixed by anybody else.
    Linux will have to deal with it, somehow. How hard could it be if this
    was deemed a priority? I'm willing to bet it has been left because most
    developers are using networks and not dialup.
    I'm not going to discount the value of personal experience, especially
    my own, thanks. Would I be better off just sticking to the opinions
    offered by magazines and blogs, or (heaven forbid) some of the zealots
    round here, who probably compiled their first program a few months ago,
    think that just over 100 days is a good uptime, and spend more time
    bashing MS, Windows and Windows users than (AFAICT) using Linux?

    Besides, this isn't a blanket criticism of Linux - I really do like
    Linux, I've used it for a long time and I use it a lot, but I think it
    is a fair criticism about hardware support and out of the box experience.
    -=rjh=-, Nov 3, 2006
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