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A Truly Easy New User Linux Distro? Let’s Get Serious

The Heart of Linux

Is disk partitioning a stumbling block to the new user installing Linux for the first time?

I remember it clearly. Well, as clearly as my teen-year chemically fueled indiscretions will allow. It was directly after the 2.27 kernel was released. Almost overnight, it went from “wireless sucks in Linux” to “holy crap, wireless works in Linux.” Yeah, there are still holdouts — I don’t want to mention any names but their first initial is Broadcom — and they still suck.

Disk partitioning

Desktop Linux has made some amazing strides in the past decade. Heck, it’s made huge strides in the past two years.

However, for those of us who use and advocate the use of desktop Linux to new users, there’s a but. A big ol’ in-your-face-can’t-sweep-it-under-the-rug “but.” Regardless of how smoothly your explanation of installing and using desktop Linux goes, that big ol’ but steps in your way. That pesky, clumsy pause as you try to figure out how to tell a new user how to partition a drive.

Most distros get it right…right? They’ve made the new system-wide hard drive installation pretty easy. Click on the check mark box that says to use the entire drive. Right?

Wrong. El-wrong-O-Roony. Wrongness to the Nth-ness.

The last time I looked (maybe 40 minutes ago) when you click that check mark via a Mint install, it will dutifully inform you that there is not a swap partition configured. it further informs you that not having a properly configured swap partition can possibly launch your planet into a collision course with a quasar.

“Do you want to go back and configure a swap partition?”

Cue the befuddled new Linux desktop user beginning to form slobber at the corners of their mouth. Houston, we have a problem.

Yeah, that whole partitioning thing. That courageous click of the mouse that will either release the Fires of hell upon your present hard drive and all the important files therein, or it will do the right thing and life continues to be good. And you feel good…you did the right thing. However it was by never-again-to-happen sheer blind luck, and you as the new Linux desktop user know it. You didn’t dodge a bullet, you ducked a burst of 30mm fire from the strafing run of a Thunderbolt A-10 Warthog.

We seriously need to fix this and I have an idea that might at least get us started in that direction. Without a doubt, some of you will mention that this whole getting the partition thing right is a rite of passage, so to speak. A learning experience we all need to go through….

No, it’s not. It’s an extremely good way to scare a potential new user off, never to return. With the tiny bit of knowledge about this engaged, I just need you smart folks to set that marble in motion. You smart folks, the 99.9 percent of you next to me, are the people that can make this happen. I simply want your ideas as to how it might work or what would be the stumbling blocks along the way.

There are a number of scenarios by which the new Linux user would approach their installation. One would be to completely blow away their Windows partition and install Linux on a newly-formatted hard drive. As much as I enjoy seeing that happen, chances are, the new user will want to keep his or her training wheels on for a while longer. This is where it gets messy. And before I forget, I found an absolutely fantastic article on the matter, written by Bran Maupin. It addresses, in excellent order, the BS with which Microsoft has mired us down. Of course, said Microsoft-placed tar pit is the always-popular inclusion of UEFI. Let’s all give them a hand, shall we. Bran also points us to a concise, easy to follow step-by-step article that most all of us might want to include in their bookmarks.

Back to the issue at hand, let’s take a look at what the new Linux user sees, when they proceed with the seeming ease of installing Linux on their computer (cue screeching brakes sound here). As Bran mentions in his article, Windows 10 seems to have an inordinate number of partitions that serve no real purpose, to the new user at least. Now, the new user is asked to partition their hard drive to accommodate their new Linux install.

Really? If Van Gogh had seen this, he would have gouged out an eye as well. First things first. Let’s find a place in this working process to explain what a partition is. And just what is a “new partition table? How is a new Linux user supposed to know WTH that even means or what they are supposed to do with it?

Explain to them, in real installation time, that a partition is a segment of their hard drive and each segment holds part of their operating system. They should know that a new segment needs to be created in order to place the new operating system. And where in the wide world of sports does it tell the new user what “format” the new segment is supposed to be. Ext3? FAT32? Where is the guidance on that?

And further, before they get blind-sided with it, explain why and how they should create a swap segment. To my eyes, this could be done right inline with that dialog box, and it should only entail a couple of new graphics and possibly a mouse-over link that gives the instructions or explanations as to how to create a swap partition.

Keep in mind that the user is apprehensive to begin with and it’s not going to take much for them to close up that box and walk away, all the time repeating in their heads, “Linux sucks, Linux sucks, Linux sucks….”

Some of you will argue that the exiting user should not allow the door to hit them on the way out. I have sat beside dozens of new Linux users for over a decade, watching them agonize over the choices they have while partitioning their dual boot system. Of course, I would never allow them to hose their systems but I have physically watched the look on their faces as they decide that it’s just too much of a risk, trying to install Linux on their Windows system.

So yeah, once again I am advocating that we take a fresh look at how a new user sees their Linux experience and how we can keep their collective butts in their seats long enough to see this through. And once again, I am looking to you to offer your suggestions as to how best accomplish this. You guys are the brains. I’m just the traffic cop here. Should you have ideas as to how you might change the GUI for the better and don’t know how to accomplish this in GIMP, email me, and I will help you get it done.

And now, this is why you folks are the 99.9 percent of people smarter than me.

I was in a panic. Google sent me an email, telling me that there was a new device that had accessed my email account and it was a Windows device. Sweat began to accumulate on my slick pate as I tried to figure out where I had used a Windows machine to access my Gmail.

As the minutes passed, I became more and more agitated…worried and even a tad put out with myself as to why I had not yet set up the dual authentication system I should have already put into place. With that done, I quietly hoped to the universe that whomever had accessed my system had not gained access to many of the documents on my Google Drive…documents that contained information about our Reglue kids and specific information about them.

Days passed into weeks and I was content that I had, possibly anyway, blocked a hacker’s attempts.

And then it happened again.

I furiously went from account to account, changing passwords into impossibly complex passwords, and triple checking to see just how much damage, if any; had been done. I was in my fouth hour when it hit me. I finally figured out who was hacking me and how they were doing it.

It was me.

While at work, I had used a mostly unused Opera browser and that browser spoofed a Windows 7 operating system. So yeah…I think I have that right. A 99.9 percent intelligence rating over me, every one of you.

It’s a wonder they will still sell me razor blades.


  1. tracyanne tracyanne May 10, 2016

    According to you Ken, Installing Linux Mint is a real problem. You said.

    “Most distros get it right…right? They’ve made the new system-wide hard drive installation pretty easy. Click on the check mark box that says to use the entire drive. Right?

    Wrong. El-wrong-O-Roony. Wrongness to the Nth-ness.

    The last time I looked (maybe 40 minutes ago) when you click that check mark via a Mint install, it will dutifully inform you that there is not a swap partition configured. it further informs you that not having a properly configured swap partition can possibly launch your planet into a collision course with a quasar.

    “Do you want to go back and configure a swap partition?”

    Cue the befuddled new Linux desktop user beginning to form slobber at the corners of their mouth. Houston, we have a problem.”

    Well the last time I looked, which is less than 1 minute ago, it said

    The following partitions are going to be formatted
    partition #1 of SCSI3(0,0,0)(sda) as ext4
    partition #5 of SCSI3(0,0,0)(sda) as swap

    You then have the option to go back or continue. It’s no more difficult to understand than the Windows install process, which I did recently for Win 7 and Win 10

    This also happened when I did the simple erase disk and install Linux Mint option (something I rarely do) on Sunday.

    Why do you keep making this shit up, do you think it has some sort of dramatic impact on your readers? What happens to your reputation when people start seeing through your hyperbole, have you ever considered that?

  2. jymm jymm May 10, 2016

    Updating from Win7 to Win10 seemed a lot scarier to me than the first time I installed a Windows/Linux dual boot (I have done this for others less technical thay myself).

    There are a lot of tutorials if you do a little reading. As long as I had a Windows installation disks I was fine rather than afraid. The one glitch I had the first time installing Linux was setting the root partion, a not well explained operation as it differs on different installers. It keep telling me to set the root partition but not how.

    I no longer run Windows, just Linux. I still like a dual boot though, running Debian Mate Jessie and Ubuntu Mate 16.04 LTS. Way happier without Windows on my computer.

  3. ihatetracyanne ihatetracyanne May 10, 2016

    I remember from my days when I started with Red Hat 6.2 / Mandrake 7 and some other releases, Partitioning was a nightmare. You could potentially , and this has happened so many times, F-up your entire system. Root needed a swap no matter how much ram you had. These days installing a distro is very much easier, seen from a technical view.Why don’t you try and sit a newcomer down and ask that person to install Ubuntu or “Mint” on their own laptop and see the agony of making that choice to press the “Install Now” button. I have had the same sweat rolling over my brow wondering if I can press the install button, did I do the partitioning correctly, is there a Root ext4 partition, a home partition in ext4 and a swap partition. Some of them actually required a boot partition to place the boot loader information otherwise it will not boot.
    Why make such personal attacks when you have not seen these types of things through the eyes of a newcomer. It’s not the first time someone wrote about the problems faced by newcomers to Linux world.
    Stop trolling, do something productive with your life.

  4. Wogster Wogster May 10, 2016

    He’s right, 99.9% of the population IS smarter then he is, because when they see something they don’t understand they go look it up.

    I think it was Mandrake, that had this all automated, by asking you how much of your existing Windows drive you wanted to carve out for Linux, and IIRC it did a check to see how much space was available. Then it ran the partitioning tool, creating the proper swap and drive partitions. Yeah it was smart enough to then mount the Windows partition to allow access to data files. Mandrake ceased as a distribution when it became Mandriva a decade ago.

  5. Mike Mike May 10, 2016

    Honestly I think this is a bad idea that will lead to more misery than it solves.

    Linux having a reputation as difficult to install is better than a reputation as a system destroyer.

    First: How many users are ever going to want to install their own operating system vs. the “just make it work” crowd? 1%? Less than 1%?

    Second: People who don’t understand partitioning should NOT install their own OS because of the potential for data loss. Dual-booting with Windows is a recipe for disaster with newbies because of Window’s tendency to obliterate other operating systems on a whim. What do you think will happen to that user after they’ve installed the distro of the day and then decide to try another, or Windows f’s up the drive after the next update?

    The thing about making partitioning “simple” for newbies is that it robs advanced users of choices unless developers put in a ton of work to accommodate all possible use cases.

    Partitioning can be incredibly complex because of the number of possible set-ups. Do you have a bios or efi system? MBR or GPT? Multiple operating systems? Do you currently have or want full disk encryption? Do you need the flexibility of logical volume management? Do you need a special use file system, e.g. BTRFS? Do you need redundancy, i.e. RAID, mirroring? How about performance, e.g. striping? Do you plan on setting up a media server, or do you need a huge database install, or room for plenty of games?

    The best solution is the one currently in place: Find someone familiar with installing an OS and ask them to help, or be prepared to do a bit of reading yourself.

  6. Roland Roland May 10, 2016

    “Sharing” a disk drive between Linux and that company which is trying to kill Linux, is a bad idea. Disk drives are cheap. Second-hand drives are free. Would you knowingly share your car with a maniac? “Sharing” with a bully will only bring grief in the long run. Hint: most people don’t even know they can have more-than-one drive in their box!

  7. lpbbear lpbbear May 10, 2016

    I have to agree with Ken. There are numerous areas in the various distros that need improvement with regard to making Linux easier for desktop users. Many of the issues have been around for a long time. One example, the sound card priority mess that seems to hang around forever. (yeah yeah /home/user/.asoundrc blah blah).
    While there is steady improvement in this area of making Linux easier many in your face issues, like the sound card thing, have been problems for many, MANY years. It seems a lot of distro effort is spent on pretty wallpapers and color schemes that get reshuffled every 6 months or so rather than the more important basics. That is truly sad because without a doubt Linux is a much better core platform than Windows.

  8. BitDr BitDr May 10, 2016

    You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

    For a user of Windows to be considering Linux as their next move is a major win that was not achieved by the actions of the Linux community, but rather by the actions and attitude of Microsoft towards their users. A newbie going it alone into the world of Linux had best have a thick skin and rock solid determination, because the Linux community presents all of the cuddly personality traits of a ticked off badger. It is not uncommon to question if a request for help has even been read by those responding to it, or to see this rather mild example of vitriol written by traceyanne regarding Mr. Stark’s blog;

    “Why make such personal attacks when you have not seen these types of things through the eyes of a newcomer.”

    When the blog clearly states;

    “I have physically watched the look on their” (new Linux Users) “faces as they decide that it’s just too much of a risk, trying to install Linux on their Windows system.”

    Folks who are looking for an alternative to Windows are perhaps not what the *NIX community classifies as technical, they use their computers to do a job and most-likely have no interest in hacking around on them. They are however what Linux needs, and we have to make sure *NIX retains the power and flexibility to meet the needs of both groups.

  9. CFWhitman CFWhitman May 10, 2016

    First, I would like to say that on the Ubuntu based distributions I have used recently, picking the “use entire disk” shortcut will set up a swap partition (matching the size of RAM, it would seem) as well as a root partition. You will not have a separate home partition as I like to have, but you will also not have to agonize about how much space to give each partition.

    My preferred way to introduce someone to Linux is to have them run it on its own machine. That way they don’t have to disturb the machine they have been using if they don’t want to. I realize that this can lead to lack of motivation to use the Linux machine rather than what they’re familiar with, but no more so than a dual boot in my experience. Some people will only use the Linux machine when the Windows machine goes on the fritz, and some will have it in a different place in the house and use it when they are there, while some use it when someone is already using the Windows machine.

    I do find that it’s generally easier to get someone to install Linux to revive their old Windows machine that they never use because it’s painfully slow. The most important thing is to back up any data that still might be floating around that machine (and don’t trust the user when he says there’s nothing important).

    Of course, I usually install Linux for the people I know that want to try it out. However, all the advantages I think installing it on a second machine give go double for those installing it themselves.

    If you must install Linux as a dual boot, then give it its own hard drive if you possibly can. This makes the whole process a bit simpler and a whole lot less risky to anything you care about on the other system. You still have to be careful you are certain which disk is which during setup. My recommendation to the uninitiated is to disconnect the original disk until the Linux installation is done. Then reconnect the Windows disk while letting the computer continue to boot to the Linux disk, and just run a grub update letting it find the Windows disk and putting that in the boot menu. The toughest part will be making Windows the default if you want to do that.

    Finally, my recommendation as to dual booting from one disk is to not do that by yourself unless you already know what you’re doing. That is, partitioning a disk manually for any reason is not a task for the uninitiated, and it has nothing to do with how hard or easy Linux is as an operating system.

  10. Derek Broughton Derek Broughton May 10, 2016

    I have only one argument with the article, and that’s not so much whether or not Mint will complain that you haven’t set up a swap partition, as WHY when you explicitly haven’t, they complain! You don’t NEED a swap partition. Why wouldn’t the installer look to see if a swap partition had been set up, and if not set up a swap FILE?

    As for all the suggestions that you shouldn’t dual boot off one drive, I have one word for you: LAPTOP. I haven’t used anything else for almost two decades. I left Windows 10 on my latest so that my wife will have an exact copy (except with less HD space) of her own machine, since we are currently living on two continents.

    And I have to say, forcing Ubuntu to partition the way I wanted it to was a nightmare. Including its insistence that I needed a swap partition. Then more hours trying to get Grub to talk UEFI (though honestly, UEFI IS better than BIOS, now that I have my head around it).

  11. Nobody of Import Nobody of Import May 10, 2016

    Heh… Might I suggest that if you’re off into the mode you’re describing here, you’re skilled enough and don’t get to lecture people about “Truly Easy New User Linux” distributions, PERIOD.

    Looking at a Mint 17 installation start, first thing it asks for is “Installation type”- which you show. It will either detect a Windows or Linux installation and ask you if you want to install alongside the first one or Erase the whole disk. If you provide either of the two, it goes on about it’s merry way and partitions up with swap, etc. everything you need and goes right into the install, with it getting everything precisely right.

    If you don’t choose the first two or so options on the Installation Type screen, all bets are OFF. You don’t get easy- nor CAN YOU. And…I’ve never seen the first two do anything like you’re describing. You were trying to do something sophisticated (Ken, you know you were.) and it jumped up and bit ya.

    I know this because I’ve gotten **REALLY** lazy with respects to personal machines- because I have enough “fun” of the complex type doing work…embedded Linux systems engineering, etc. I don’t have time to waste doing the things you’re describing here and Mint flat-out doesn’t do it (Nor does Ubuntu or any of it’s derivatives…) and I know this since I’ve been using it and things like Xubuntu for YEARS now on personal gear not set up for dev-test. If it did this…I’d look for a new distro…because enough of them get this right now, having followed Ubuntu’s lead on this, that there’s not much of any excuses on that regard…and if you’re doing it and you’re not Arch or Gentoo, I’ve no time for you.

  12. wumpus wumpus May 10, 2016

    A few things to mention here:

    At some point the new user will need to understand partitions. If the new user is reading an “install guide”, that is the time to explain what they are, why you want them, and how to use them. It the first time they see the concept is during installation, that is a bad idea and a great way to destroy the poor users computer (who will then tell everyone that Linux is the worst thing ever made, and will be right in his case).

    Are there any new Linux users anymore? I started using windows after being absolutely disgusted with MS for a long time (I used SunOS before MSDOS. The hate of Microsoft for leaving my 386sx “real hardware” in the dark ages of DOS knew no end). I’m guessing that windows 10 will bring in new users that have pretty much been happy with Microsoft since windows 7, but we can’t really expect a Linux desktop migration until Microsoft effectively gives up the desktop.

    [and related, but irrelevant for new users]
    Does Red Hat still absolutely require a hard drive partition table written either by Red Hat or Microsoft? Since 1995 (when I installed a Red Hat and later ignored it) the *only* time I have successfully installed a Red Hat derivative (much less the many times I’ve tried the real thing before it went commercial, and a few tries with Fedora) was an Asterisk install where I was willing to give it the entire disk (little point otherwise for such an embedded device). Typically I have had existing partitions of Windows (pretty much always created by Linux due to the way Windows likes to overwrite the bootloader) and then Red Hat just *has* to insist on wiping out every last partition (Linux, windows, even BSD or OS/2 if I had them) before it is willing to allow me to install it. Not interested.

  13. Shawn Rogers Shawn Rogers May 10, 2016

    I’m wondering which demographic this targets. Have these “New Linux Users” ever installed Windows from scratch? It is no less dangerous to your HDD. There is no way to accurately predict and deal with the infinite partition possibilities. Maybe they shouldn’t be attempting to install any OS if they don’t know what is going on. The only safe way would be to teach the installers to never touch any default Windows partition and have an “Install Along Side” option.

  14. Purple Library Guy Purple Library Guy May 10, 2016

    On the tracyanne flaming–on one hand, tracyanne was flaming. Unnecessarily nasty and rude.
    BitDr’s rejoinder was oddly inaccurate, since it took a comment by someone counterattacking tracyanne and addressed to her, and treated it as if it had been addressed by tracyanne to Mr. Stark.
    But on the substance of what that stuff is about–the point is, it seems that Mint has to some degree already addressed this stuff, and tracyanne’s core claim is that it doesn’t actually behave like Mr. Stark says. If she’s right, it’s worth mentioning, if not worth mentioning that way.

    If Mint has already solved the problem, that’s great (up to a point). If they haven’t, Mr. Stark is quite right–it needs solving, and even if Mint has done it, other distros also need to step up. On this I think Mike is quite wrong, especially about this:
    “The thing about making partitioning “simple” for newbies is that it robs advanced users of choices unless developers put in a ton of work to accommodate all possible use cases.”
    Well, no, it does no such thing. Mint already has that covered. They offer basic choice 1, basic choice 2, I can’t remember if there’s a third, and then there’s the choice “Something Else” which pops you into the partitioning tool and you can roll your own–perhaps without the grand complexity of a command line interface, but if you want that you should be using Debian or something. Works well; if you know enough to want, and know you want, some non-basic option then you know enough to be handling your own details.

    The problem for me with the Mint approach as it currently exists is that they don’t do it the best way, especially given the nature of Mint. Mint has tended to emphasize re-installing over updating when it comes to new versions. If I’m going to be doing reinstalls all the time, the /home directory should be by default in a different partition from the / directory, so I can re-install without wiping all my stuff. Duh. So IMO both their “dual-boot with Windows” choice and their “Wipe everything and install Mint” basic choice should default to using a separate partition for /home, and as far as I can make out they do not, so I have to plump for the “Something Else” option and fuddle-duddle around with swap and crap.

  15. Albin Albin May 10, 2016

    I’ve run Ubuntu / Mint since 10.04 on several machines, currently Mint 17.3 as a full HDD install, dual boot with Win 7, and persistent Live USB. Back in 2010 the install was a bit confusing, but far more puzzling was to learn without warning that dual booting replaced the Windows bootloader with GRUB, requiring a hard-to-find procedure to restore the orginal. It also took a long time to figure out that third-party repos dried out far sooner than supposed “long term support” of the core OS, and that home LAN networking with Windows via Samba wasn’t a learning curve but a learning Everest. Pending Mint 18 / Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, I won’t put it on any HDD without several weeks of shakeout for system and peripheral compatibility on a persistent Live USB. Which brings me to my modest suggestion:

    That is that Linux should be provided to new users on a fully functional USB 3 thumb drive or HDMI stick, i.e. without the functional limitations of the normal frozen zombie “installation ISO” or a limited use “persistent” version, that works well enough WITHOUT RISK OF ANY KIND to get thoroughly familiar with the distro, the DE, the preinstalled software and available repository tools and its compatibility with the user’s PC and peripherals and networked devices. I think, at a time when Intel is already selling HDMI plug-in Windows on stick, Linux distros should realize that asking new users to take a pig in a poke and install it along with GRUB on their machines with no guarantee it will work, just a lot of “encouragement” from hit and miss user forums, is asking too much from too many.

  16. Paul Paul May 10, 2016

    A useful topic spoiled by puerile writing.

  17. Tim Tim May 10, 2016

    Just use Mageia.

  18. Somewhat Reticent Somewhat Reticent May 10, 2016

    Since dumbed-down is neither Easy nor Flexible, does the article writer hope someone will agree that simple links to explanatory material would provide the Full_Manual assist to fit the current user? This could work IF a properly hyper-linked Full_Manual is provided (by download or online, as needed). Most distributions, however, point to Wikipedia or an incomplete+obsolete wiki instead, or worse yet suggest searching (Go Fish?) a (hostile?) forum, some other distro’s documentation, or the WWW.

  19. Purple Library Guy Purple Library Guy May 10, 2016

    Somewhat Reticent, are you being facetious? I’d have thought we were far enough down the road by now that nobody really takes seriously the idea that it’s pointless to ever make anything easier.
    I’ve noticed that lots of people think that about their own particular specialty that they know so well how to do the hard way, but nobody ever thinks it about anyone else’s that they don’t.
    The fact is that there are a few very common use cases for this kind of thing, which tend to be associated with basic use by non-experts. And a lot of very uncommon ones which require expertise. It is silly for experts to go around claiming that non-experts should learn their expertise in order to access the simple use-cases they need which could perfectly well be automated by people who are actually as smart as the experts imagine themselves to be.

  20. Eddie G. Eddie G. May 11, 2016

    Ok. So I’m just gonna say my piece and leave. first off, the days of mind-numbing partitioning are pretty much over UNLESS you happen to be installing something “complicated”, in which case it should be safe to assume you know what you’re doing and don’t need someone holding your hand.
    Secondly, for the newbies most Linux distro installations are easy enough that they can install, customize, and update their systems with no help. For the newbie who wanders into Linux-land haphazardly, well, they get what they deserve. Understand me, I’m not trying to be mean or self-righteous…..BUT:
    When you buy a new stroller, you don’t just pull it out the box, expand it, and throw your newborn baby in there. You READ THROUGH THE MANUAL CAREFULLY, so that you don’t INJURE or even KILL your baby! Why should using / installing an OS on a computer be any different?
    Aren’t the pics from the last Family Reunion “valuable” (Yes.)
    Aren’t the copies of your resume with the awesome layout and impeccable writing style of value? (even if YOU’RE the only one who thinks so the answer is STILL Yes.)
    And these questions go on and on…..aren’t your movies / music / scanned baby pics / copies of your lease agreement / love letters to your spouse / Granny’s recipe for Chicken Soup..etc…etc…etc. important to you? Well then if that’s the case why would you just go and install a new OS WITHOUT READING ALL THAT YOU COULD ABOUT IT FIRST!?
    Sorry, I guess it’s the “Vulcan” in me (and right there I show my age!…LoL!) But “Logically” speaking? you don’t do ANYTHING with a computer…whether desktop…laptop….tablet….Raspberry Pi…etc without making sure you know ALL that you need to BEFORE doing anything else!
    I started READING about Linux in Jan. 2003 I didn’t do my FIRST install until Feb of 2004! and for the entire time between “First Contact” and “Install” I did NOTHING but READ any and EVERY thing I could about it!
    Why is it asking too much from someone who’s never changed a tire before to read about it before actually attempting it?…would you want a brain surgeon to even APPROACH your head with a scalpel if he had NEVER even READ a BOOK about brain surgery? I personally think we as Human Beings have gotten lazy. I might be old, but I still don’t mind “doing” things for myself, I don’t NEED Siri….OK-Google…..Jeeves…Jarvis…Darwin…Einstein…or any other artificial intelligence doing anything for me. And nor do I need to have the developers custom-tailor the myriad of distros out there to make me feel better with partitioning ease. If someone wants to do ANYTHING in life they’d better find some literature, and READ it. Get familiar with it…practice, rehearse….and KNOW what it is they’re about to do!

  21. Eddie G. Eddie G. May 11, 2016

    And on another tangent, the times have come that what was once impossible is now possible. What was once considered a luxury is now a necessity, and because of that the average person should at the very least, be able to afford a 500GB to 1TB external hard drive. And they should be able to back up everything on the PC in question, to avoid losing anything. I’m just saying…

  22. Purple Library Guy Purple Library Guy May 11, 2016

    So . . . in order to use Linux, people should have to buy an extra hard drive, read “all that they can” about it (ie an infinite amount), and walk 10 miles through the snow to work/school, uphill both ways. And get off your lawn.

    Why are some people so amazingly committed to the importance of Linux losing forever among everyday computer users?

  23. tracyanne tracyanne May 11, 2016


    Yes Linux did USED to be like that

    “remember from my days when I started with Red Hat 6.2 / Mandrake 7 and some other releases, Partitioning was a nightmare. ”

    I too remember trying to install Red hat 6.2/Mandrake 7, but while Red Hat continued to be exactly that, a nightmare, Mandrake became with each iteration simpler to install (to the point one could just click to install and it would create 3 partitions /, /home and swap), as indeed Ubuntu and Linux Mint are today.

    Linux Mint may once have been as Ken describes, but it hasn’t been like that for a long time. It is exactly as I described drop dead simple. So I don’t know which version of Linux Mint Ken was referring to, and if it’s anything recent then he is resorting to hyperbole.

    The are in fact quite enough niggly issues that confuse newby users, without someone pointing to issues that don’t actually exist.

  24. Eddie G. Eddie G. May 11, 2016

    No. Not everyone must do that. As a matter of fact I can up this way. If it were important enough….they would. Since it seems doing something as rudimentary as reading is such a big deal, then maybe they (meaning those who have problems with Windows…but who are too afraid….to hesitant….and too lazy to read a few paragraphs on a Web page!) should stick with Windows. As for keeping off my lawn, that’s hard to do since I don’t HAVE one!…LoL…

  25. Purple Library Guy Purple Library Guy May 11, 2016

    That’s an amazingly selfish attitude which is bad for the world at large and Linux in specific. The “Linux should stay bad enough that the proles can’t use it” approach would, if any coders paid attention to it which luckily I don’t think they do, result in Microsoft retaining the leverage forever to keep the drivers crappy and late, the file formats closed with Linux software always playing catch-up to try to work with them, and all the other incompatibilities. Or if Microsoft lost their mojo, someone else would come along and do the same thing and Linux would eat their dust instead, because Linux would never be able to compete.

  26. CFWhitman CFWhitman May 11, 2016

    Really, in my experience, a technical type of user should be able to do research to figure out how to do what he wants, and be aware of the risks he is taking. A non-technical user should get help from a technical user. That’s what several of the people I know do. They don’t install Linux; they have me do it.

    I realize that some people have laptops, which is why I mentioned the possibility of doing that, but with the recommendation that you shouldn’t do it unless you know what you’re doing. I could have qualified that by saying, don’t do it on a system you’re concerned about keeping the existing system on unless you know what you’re doing. If you don’t mind risking the existing system because you’re confident you don’t need it or can re-install it if necessary, and there is no data being risked, then go ahead and experiment until you get it right.

    I didn’t mention the possibility of a USB installation, but Albin did, and it is a good solution to test Linux, but it basically has to be done by someone who knows what they’re doing in order to be a proper Linux install (and not just a live DVD on a stick) for complete testing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could still easily mess up your existing installation while installing to USB (there is always the trick of disconnecting the existing system while doing it, though).

  27. tracyanne tracyanne May 11, 2016

    quote — Really, in my experience, a technical type of user should be able to do research to figure out how to do what he wants, and be aware of the risks he is taking. A non-technical user should get help from a technical user. That’s what several of the people I know do. They don’t install Linux; they have me do it. –quote

    Non technical users don’t install Windows either. They get, and often pay heaps, a technical type person to do it.

    So unless one is interested in teaching people to install Linux, the issues are somewhat moot; and if one wants to do that then I think we really need to spend a bit more time teaching those people some technical skills.

    The way to ensure major uptake of Linux is not to get every Joe and Jane to install it, but to get every hardware manufacturer to offer it as a pre install and in attractive ways.

  28. Prattle On, Boyo Prattle On, Boyo May 11, 2016

    First off, UEFI is just reason number 5,285 to *not* buy the brand spanking new $4K laptop. I bought a manuf. refurb 64-bit Dell from 2011 and it still has all the features I have come to expect on a laptop instead of the drastically, astonishingly decreased # of usb ports of today’s spiffing new $4K laptops.
    Disclaimer: I have several games that I still play which is why I keep Win7 Pro on the same HDD, but having installed 64-bit Lubuntu couldn’t have been easier. This box has a Broadcom wifi chip but it actually works perfectly.

    Instead of making an argument to couch the language of Linux in happy, shiny, sugar coated candies for n00bs, how about just encouraging these same n00bs to buy older hardware and to just install their fave ‘nux flavor side-by-side Windows?

    Frankly, I think that if you are frightened by having to config a swap file then you have no business using Linux in the first place.

  29. W.Anderson W.Anderson May 12, 2016

    Over the past ten plus years of advising and actually upgrading Windows users – including for Windows 7/8x and now Windows 10 users to a dual boot with GNU/Linux, I am aware of every potential calamilty as mentioned above.

    However, I do feel that the best approach for this process is to encourage and/or assist Windows users to get assistance from an “experienced”, knowledgeable Linux user/expert, to explain the process as it goes along and recommend e.g. amount of HD that can be used for Linux, already knowling what the new adoptee will be using GNU/Linux for.

    Attelpting to install GNU/Linux on dual boot with live assistance by a non-technical Windows user is certain to bring underserved grief.

    There are also Linux informal groups around the country that setup InstallFests at Libraries, Boys Clubs and YMCAs for such tasks.

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