Saturday, September 18, 2010

Linux Support Not Without Shortcomings

Living in the Linux/UNIX world has its challenges...
  • Yesterday I happened to notice a warning on a page at the Ubuntu Linux web site about Adobe Flash Player. The version that has been in the field for a long time turned out to have a security flaw, and everyone was urged to replace the player on their system right away. For Stella, on Windows Vista, that was two replacements, one for IE and one for Firefox. For me, on Lucid Lynx (yes, that is the project name for Ubuntu Linux 10.04), it was just one replacement, but as with so many things in Linux, the instructions resulted in a long session at a Terminal (Windows users: think "command prompt").

    There was just one problem: the instructions were wrong. In Firefox 3.6, the Adobe Flash plugin has its own folder, /usr/lib/adobe-flashplugin. If you put it in the default plugins folder, it doesn't work. It's a good thing I like to explore and tinker with things; I can't imagine that a typical Firefox user would have found this.

  • Today I accepted an Ubuntu update, including a replacement kernel and some other stuff. After applying the update, there was no sound. Indeed, there was no sound card visible through utilities. For me, no sound = no fun. :-(

    A few days ago, I manually replaced the sound driver with the latest ALSA version, 1.0.23 ... I don't remember why I decided to do this, but it was good experience in learning to build a driver, and it worked pretty much as advertised. But today's update from Ubuntu forcibly replaced my newer-version sound card driver with the older version 1.0.21, which is part of the current release for Lucid Lynx. When the driver is version-incompatible with all the other sound software, there's no sound. No sound = no fun. :-(

    On the community support site for Ubuntu was a sound troubleshooting page. It was formidable, several dozen steps long. Fortunately, one of the diagnostics it ran (again in a long Terminal session) showed me the out-of-sync driver version number. I repeated the build process for the driver, and sound reappeared. Sound = fun! :-)

Some people suggest, and I sympathize with them, that Windows and Mac systems should be replaced in public schools, libraries, etc. with Linux, because Linux is free of cost, has comparable features, and is high-quality, generally reliable software. But if a user community decides to do that, they'd better have a Linux wizard on-staff or at least readily available. The online help available, both from Linux vendors and from the technical community, is very good, but there are occasionally things that go wrong that no one but an experienced person can solve.

1 comment:

  1. OTOH, no one but an experienced user would be mucking about with drivers, and you can actually lock people out of admin functions on X systems a great deal easier than Win systems.

    I only ever dealt with one Win network, and it was a while ago, but it was pure hell to keep things synced across the network.

    When you have several dozen people trying to "import viruses" by using something on a diskette from their home systems, it was a nightmare.

    Yes, it needs to be installed and upgraded by someone who knows what they are doing, but you rarely need to do anything in between.



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