Friday, September 3, 2010

My First Experience with Ubuntu 10.04

First off I have to say that I have been using Ubuntu 9 for some time with little or no problems (there are a few minor things but mostly things that I don't really care about). But recently the department IT guys decided that they wanted to upgrade the department Linux computers (~50% of the computers in the department) to Ubuntu 10.04. So one day with little warning the computer in my office was upgraded (each office has at least one departmental computer, though most people just use their own). To explain my frustration with Ubuntu 10 I will tell my experience in story format which is only slightly fictional. I'm sure this particular style of writing has never been used on The Eternal Universe before, but it should be ok.

Begin Story:

As I walk to the door of my office I notice a piece of paper taped to my door. It is a short note explaining that the locks to my office have been changed. Instead of using the standard departmental key I have to use the standard campus wide key. OK, no problem I unlock the door and proceed to enter, when suddenly a sign pops up and says "You entry key will expire in 59 days, 18 hours, 14 minutes, 53 seconds!" OK, whatever. I tell it to go away.

I enter my office and immediately I am greeted by a cheerful, happy voice saying, "Hi!"

"Uh, hi." I respond. "Who are you?"

"I'm the new secretary, Ubuntu 10.04!"

"Uh, ok, whatever...uh where's my desk?"

"It's right here," pointing to a brand new, shining desk.

"Uh, ok, where's all my stuff?" I ask.

"What stuff?" Ubuntu replies.

"My stuff. The stuff that was sitting on top of my last desk."

"Oh, I put it in a folder."

"Uh, thanks, but I want it on top of my desk so I can use it."

Blank stare.

"Listen," I say, "I had all of that stuff on my desktop for a reason. I need it there for easy access."

Blank stare.

"Never mind," I say, "where is it? I'll just put it back." I rummage around in my desk and find the folder labeled "Desktop". That's stupid, I think, the whole reason why it was on the desktop in the first place was because I wanted it to be there, in plain view, not so that it could be filed away out of sight in a folder labeled "Desktop". I select the files I used to have on my desktop until Ubuntu 10.04 got over zealous on her first day and filed them away. I drag them over to my desktop and drop them on it. Before they even hit the surface of my desk a cheerful voice says, "Oh! Would you like to create a widget?"

"A what...wait...What? No I just want to put these files here on my desktop where I can see them."

Blank stare.

I try to put the files on my desktop again. "Would you like to create a widget?" Ubuntu asks again.

"No! I don't want a widget!" I reply. The files refuse to move onto my desktop. "OK, what is going on?" I ask Ubuntu.

"Would you like to create a widget?"

"Will that put the files back onto my desktop?"

"It will create a file and folder widget."

"OK fine whatever, just do it so I can access the files easily." A stack of "widgets" appear on my desktop, all on top of each other. OK this is a mess. I select the widget on top and drag it some place else. I go to move the second widget, but as soon as I move the second widget, the first one goes back to its original location, on top of the stack.

"What was that?" I ask.

Blank stare.

"OK whatever." I begin to move the first widget again, but as soon as I get it in place the second widget returns to the stack. I frantically begin moving "widgets" away from the stack. All of a sudden a copy of the first widget appears in place where I originally tried to put it. Suddenly copies of widgets start appearing out of nowhere. I select the whole mess and delete them all. I start hunting around to try and change some of the basic settings. I am desperately trying to find the one big button that says, "Reset to standard computer interface." No such luck. In all my left and right clicking around I accidentally select the wrong item in the left click menu and suddenly half of the items on my task bar disappear.

"Wait! What just happened?" I ask.

"Oh! would you like to create a widge..."

"NO!" I cut her off. "And what is your obsession with widgets anyway?" I go hunting around for some kind of task bar menu, or control panel. I find an option to add more widgets. Not helpful. I sit there and wonder who was the crazy person that designed it so that things could be removed so easily, by simply clicking the wrong thing in the left click menu, but makes it impossible to put them back. What ever happened to ctrl-z?

I eventually find a web browser, but unfortunately it seems to never have heard of a Google search tool bar. I go to Google and search for how to fix the problem. I finally find one site that says, you have to left click on the task bar and then select option X you can put it back the way it was. The only problem is I don't have option X. I just have to option to remove more stuff and to add widgets. I begin searching through the widgets. There are widgets for every imaginable useless thing ever invented. There is a widget for a bouncing ball. It makes a bouncing ball appear on your desktop and, get this, it bounces. Who would have thought. The ball is red. There are six different widgets to tell the time. There are widgets to link to Facebook. Great, I can update my Facebook status from my desktop, but I can't put a file on it. Still nothing to fix the task bar.

I start getting desperate. By almost random clicking I manage to create a new task bar only this one hangs down from the ceiling, and doesn't have anything in it. I tell it to go away. While I am trying to fix the original problem I open up a window to search through my files. Suddenly the window freezes.

"Uh, Ubuntu...that window is frozen. Can you make it go away."

Ubuntu tries, and fails. "Sorry I can't. Do you want to create a ..."

"NO!" I try to figure out what went wrong. In my searching around I notice that I can create a widget that puts a terminal on the desktop. Oh, that might be useful. I start it up and a terminal display opens up. One problem, it's small. Like really, really small. I can fit a maximum of 27 characters on a line. I have never been so constrained since using my TI-83. I try to make it bigger. I notice that for every widget there is a menu bar that pops out every time I hover over it. I notice that there are four buttons in the menu, but the only problem is that two of the buttons don't do anything and of the two buttons that do do something one deletes the widget, the other brings up more options (one of which deletes the widget). OK that was useless. Seriously everywhere I look there is an option to get rid of every single thing in sight but it seems that the only option available to add anything is to add widgets and task bars in odd locations. Who designed this thing?!?!?!? A monkey in Madagascar? (OK so I don't think that Madagascar has monkeys, so that can't be it, perhaps it was some modern, or post-modern artist. Lots of bright colors and zero functionality. Or maybe it was something worse, like an existentialist philosopher. Yeah that makes sense, because it seems that Ubuntu 10 was designed so that everything imaginable could be deleted quite easily and the only things that can be added are widgets, which have a menu that doesn't do anything.) Anyway back to the story.

By now I am getting quite frustrated, and the windows have stopped working so I quickly head for the door and hope that if I just step out for a moment everything will reset. I step out and close the door. As I enter I am confronted with another message saying, "You entry key will expire in 59 days, 17 hours, 32 minutes, 16 seconds!" Yeah, like that won't get annoying.

I peek in and glance at my desk. Everything is still a mess. Ubuntu smiles happily and says, "Hi! Do you want to make a widget?" I run screaming from the room.

After that I went and found another computer, this time with something sensible like Windows 7 and I email my department IT people. I say simply, "There is a virus in my office. I calls itself Ubuntu 10.04. Can you please come take care of it."


  1. Quantumleap42,

    I can tell you sound like you've been through the war. (And I do appreciate the unique writing style.)

    I've never had such issues with Ubuntu 10.04 and I am using it myself. I will be curious what will cause you more headaches in astrophysics in the long run: using a unix based system like Ubuntu or a Windows based one.

  2. Quantumleap42,

    I'm curious, did you try to make a widget? Sometimes those widgets work wonders. :)

    How many of you can remember the mystical fortune telling fish? She might have helped you out.

  3. LOL... that's a good scare story. Upgrading Linux, eh QuantumLeap42? I've never used Linux before, but I think it might be a good idea to go that way for my next computer though.

  4. QuantumLeap42:
    I liked your story, but I wish you would have continued following the office metaphor. Somewhere in the middle you sort of went from the analogy to the actual computer (hence taking the fun out of the analogy). But I really liked the idea!!

    I'm using Windows 7. I can't say I'm in love, but I can't say I hate it either. It's light years better than Vista, but not really better than Windows XP SP3 IMHO.

    Personally, I get too impatient (even for a true nerd) to use Linux on a daily basis. At home I have a server that runs Ubuntu Server, my desktop is Windows 7, and my media center is a Mac Mini!

  5. Joe, yes I created some widgets. It turns out that what every other operating systems calls standard, Ubuntu 10 calls an optional (and easily deletable) widget. I think what was the most frustrating was the fact that I could so easily delete everything but it was almost impossible to put it back.

    jmb275, I think the reason for the difference was that the first part was written immediately after my experience and second part was written a few days latter, after I no longer had a desire to take a shotgun to the computer.


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