Linux Myth: Installing Software on Linux is Hard

As many a Linux user that follows posts on USENET and other online forums can attest there are Linux Haters out there. Typically these Linux Haters are folk that, for some reason or another, decide “I Hate Linux and You Should Too!”. Most of the time they advocate for Microsoft and its’ products, but not always. In any case, these folk tend to promulgate specific myths about Linux. One of these myths is that software is hard to install on Linux.

While installing software on Linux might have been challenging in the early days of Linux this is no longer true. To refute this myth and others I intend to create videos of my desktop while doing these operations purported to be “hard”. Today, my video is about the difficulty of installing software on Linux. I use Mandriva 2008.1 as of now and am using its’ software manager with online software repositories to install AbiWord, a word processor. Since I use the fluxbox window manager that does not run a bunch of cruft in the background to keep menus updated and such I update the menus by running a command line command to do so after the install. If I logged out and logged back in the menus would be updated for me. Supposedly if I ran KDE or Gnome as a desktop I understand the menus would auto-magically update for me (corrections welcomed).

Watch the video and decide for yourself how “hard” it is to install software on Linux. This video is at 1280×1024 resolution, 15,765,584 bytes, 3 minutes and 42 seconds (00:03:42) in OGG Theora Video format. If you do not have an OGG Theora Video player on your favorite operating system then shame on you. Go get one.

Video: OGG Video – Myth, Software Hard to Install (Note: this works best to download the file to your hard drive and then open it with a video player that supports OGG Theora Video format.)

Edit Sun Aug 10 00:54:08 UTC 2008: I decided to have mercy on those with lower bandwidth and created a “Flash” version of this video that is smaller (640×480 resolution, 6,020,416 bytes): Flash Video – Myth, Software Hard to Install (Again, download this and open with a video player.)

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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

6 thoughts on “Linux Myth: Installing Software on Linux is Hard”

  1. I apologize that the Flash video is such poor quality. I imagine there are switches I could use with ffmpeg to correct that but I do not know them.

  2. This is too good to be true! There is actually a web log for Linux Haters and they “love” my article. Okay, in reality the response to my article was profane, snide and condescending so don’t let your kids read it. But then, who would expect otherwise from the folks whose byline is actually “We hate Linux. And you should too.”. How ironic, I did not even know this site existed before seeing referrers from there in my web site logs today.

    Edit Mon Aug 11 16:58:47 UTC 2008: I read some of the posts on this web log. I think the fellow that created the web log is more attempting to get his perceived problems with Linux fixed rather than trying to get folks to “hate” Linux. Although he does this in a coarse manner I applaud his effort if that is the case.

  3. I’m afraid that how easy or how hard installing software on Linux is all depends on what you’re installing.

    You see, software that comes packaged with your distribution (e.g. OpenSuSE Linus) is generally pretty easy to install. Debian packages tend to work fine too. Sometimes even .RPM packages installe without a hitch.

    However, installing a random tar-ball can be terrible. I had this experience e.g. with a Java interface to the statistical programming language “R”. Under Windows the install took about 5 seconds and everything worked. Under Linux the install took 3 days (which involved hunting down and installing dependencies based on compiler and linker error messages and trying to get the exact versions right) and the final result was a partially functional piece of software.

    So no, the difficulty of installing software on Linux is anything but a myth. It *can* be a breeze, but if you expected that o be the case, you’d better stay within whatever your distro has prepared for you.

  4. Golodh, this is true. I do address installing “third party” applications in the article posted yesterday: Linux Myth: Installing ?Third Party? Software is ?Hard?

    In that article I state: ‘The problem with ?third party? software is not Linux, it is the offerings from some software developers that do not take into account the fact there are non-technical users that want to install their stuff on Linux. …’. Then I reply to a comment from someone else with a throwaway address with more detail about what I see as a solution when I view this problem. In that reply I state: ‘… But saying Linux cannot be used by an average user because ?blah is too hard on Linux? is false in the cases I show here. That is my point, such overreaching statements against using Linux are simply not true all the time or even most of the time as of now. The cases where it may be true are fewer and fewer.’

    P.S. I am, at the moment, making exceptions for some of you signing up here with fake and throwaway e-mail addresses as your replys are civil so far. However, allowing these addresses is not the norm here.

  5. Heh, Matt Asay from The Open Road on CNET Networks, Inc. refers unflatteringly to this article in his article The Linux desktop, Macs, and barking dogs. While I appreciate Mr. Asay reading my articles I insist he misses my point. Since he appears to not be the only one missing my point, it follows here.

    There are people who state, without qualifications, that Linux is too hard for the average user because {insert unfounded reason here}. I intend to take these “reasons” I have seen and point out that without qualifying what one means they can be proven false. Do these arguments against using Linux have merit? Sure, in some cases they do. The majority of the time though, if not qualified, in other words restricted in meaning, these statements are too broad and not truth. My argument is that one must be specific when making such assertions.

    What does not work well or at all on one Linux distribution may work perfectly well on another. Software developed to Linux Standard Base (LSB) should be able to work across all distributions that support LSB. There are many false claims both for and against using Linux. I will not make false claims intentionally, just point out those on the don’t use Linux side of the equation that are unqualified FUD manure spreading.

    Following my own advice I see I was not as specific about my intent in the article above as I need to be. In any case, despite the problems that do exist with Linux distributions I see no reason those distributions I have tried could not be used by “average user” on the desktop. Provided “average user” learned how to use {chosen distribution} just as well as “average user” knows {some other operating system}. If “average user” has his first experience with a personal computer on a Linux based distribution then “average user” is going to have ZERO problems using Linux on the desktop. It will be what he knows. The only “average user” that is going to have problems with Linux on the desktop is the “average user” coming in with “training” on some other operating system.

    Edit Tue Aug 12 20:57:45 UTC 2008: Add some clarification.

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