Why Ubuntu is not ready for prime time

Nathan Dorfman na at rtfm.net
Wed Aug 26 18:53:23 UTC 2009

On Wed, Aug 26, 2009 at 7:57 AM, Mat Tomaszewski <
mat.tomaszewski at canonical.com> wrote:

> So this is actually the only good and valid point in this, otherwise
> exaggerated, rant.
> I'm currently reviewing the download process on Ubuntu.com and been
> looking into various help and support options that the user is presented
> with. The non-paid choices basically are:
> - Ubuntu documentation (help.ubuntu.com) – very information-rich
> resource but very beginner-unfriendly (lots of technical jargon)
> - Forums – lots of information noise, very difficult to locate the right
> thread (or even find out where to start) to someone not already
> accustomed with how forums work
> - Mailing lists – the UI the user is presented with when subscribing can
> be intimidating and does not provide a helpful "how to" information
> - IRC – most users never heard of it and never used it. Very niche and
> mysterious way of communication from average user's standpoint
> I'd personally hesitate to offer any of the above to my wife, mum, or
> anyone who I know is not deeply into "all things web". Would you? I'm
> very curious what are the experiences of people here, would be great to
> hear your stories and opinions on that.

Hi. I'm not a regular here, but I feel compelled to comment on this point.

You're right, I wouldn't expect my mom to be able to RTFM and figure out how
to, say, recover a corrupt grub installation or set up LVM. Similarly, I
wouldn't expect her to be able to recover a corrupted registry on a Windows
box without a lot of help.

Documentation simply isn't going to be read by this class of user,
regardless of whether it comes from ubuntu.com or microsoft.com. When a
problem or question arises, the course of action is the same regardless of
what OS is in use: first, ask my dad; if that fails, ask me.

However, since installing Ubuntu and showing her how to launch Firefox and
Skype, I've noticed a real difference: the number of problems and questions
that arise have dropped to zero. The computer just works. Examples of things
I used to hear regularly during the pre-Ubuntu era, and have never heard

- Why is it so slow?

- What is this [insert annoyware/malware du jour] and why is it here?

- Why did my computer reboot without my permission, after I explicitly
selected the "do not reboot after installing updates" option?

- Everything is broken! Nothing at all is working!

There are also some questions that I, as the de facto administrator of the
machine, no longer have to ask myself:

- Why do I need this third party bloatware just to use the printer, and why
does that bloatware include a process that eats 90%+ CPU, even at times when
nothing printer-related is going on? (In Ubuntu, of course, it Just

- Where can I find software to do XYZZY for Windows? How do I know what I'm
downloading? How can I estimate the trustworthiness of the author?
(apt-cache search ; apt-get install. Or, Synaptic, if you prefer).

- Looks like the hard drive crashed and will need to be replaced. Do I have
a day to sacrifice reinstalling applications and drivers interactively?
(Install Ubuntu, feed apt-get a list of packages from the old system,
restore /home).

In short: the documentation may not make a completely non-technical user
able to install and administer an Ubuntu system herself, but that's
irrelevant. That user won't be installing or administering her own Windows
system, either -- someone else will be doing that. The difference is that
with Ubuntu, she will have to call that someone else a lot less often.
Ubuntu makes her life easier, as well as mine. As for the quality of the
documentation, in my personal opinion it's usually incomparably better than
that provided by Microsoft ... but hey, YMMV, and as I said, it's irrelevant

P.S.: If the OP is not a troll, I don't know what is.

> Cheers,
> Mat
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