Blog Post

My job is to support you no matter the issue

After reading John Vivirito’s blog post HERE and HERE about Automatix and support, I got a flash back. I got a flash back of the Linux of old, the RTFM Linux days. Up until recently, I thought Automatix was pretty decent for the person who was brand new to Linux and didn’t know their way around it all that wall. It was cool for people who are constantly on the go, and need everything now. At the same time I believe that people should go out, find the applications they want or need, and learn to install them themselves. In the long run, learning to how compile, make, install, configure, whatever is a great knowledge to have. So I was close to 50/50 on the whole idea, or maybe closer to 75% doing it yourself, and 25% the Automatix way. Until today…

If someone on #Ubuntu told you that Automatix caused a certain problem don’t believe him/her. Its a known fact that the #Ubuntu channel spreads misinformation about Automatix. If you ask us for help and you mention that your were told by someone on #Ubuntu that Automatix caused the problem, your request for help will be ignored.

Wow! Here you are providing an application, a decent one at that, to a lot of users who just so happen to use the most popular Linux distribution today, and you won’t provide them support when someone says, “hey check out #automatix, maybe they can help you as this seems to be an issue directly related to that.” I have sat through countless hours helping people who tried to upgrade to Edgy, but upon booting noticed they had no X-Windows. I actually sat there, pulled many into #ubuntu-classroom, and helped them through their woes. Myself, I spend countless hours on IRC, Instant Messaging, and E-mail helping any and everyone possible. Why? Because I believe in and love this awesome movement built around the greatest operating system ever, Linux. And then I get a user who says they won’t get support from you because I said it was caused by your application and maybe you have a quick fix for it, and not only are they upset at you, but they tend to be annoyed at me for sending them your way. Sounds more like a gaming clan than an Open Source solution to me. Granted, not everyone can troubleshoot every question down to the true source, but you need to listen to people who have a borked system that someone in #ubuntu or the like send your way. If it isn’t your issue, then good for you, let them know, and hey, maybe you can still help them fix it continuing your contribution to the Linux community.

So how do we fix a problem like this? Simple. Scour the Ubuntu Wiki, the Community Documentation, the Ubuntu Forums, the Kubuntu Forums, and even check out the Ubuntu Documentation Storage Facility. Learn how to install these applications you really want installed. Maybe you can even spend some time and learn how to package an application for your use, and possibly get it sponsored and uploaded into an Official Ubuntu Repository. Many of you made a switch to Linux to learn something new, to gain a greater knowledge, or stability and security were you plan. If these were your intentions, then I say don’t bother with Automatix and the like, learn to install everything on your own, ask questions in #ubuntu on chat.freenode.net (port 8001), or maybe send an email to ubuntu-users(at)lists(dot)ubuntu(dot)com. Since I am a part of the Ubuntu Documentation Project, and I can proudly say, RTFM. Read The Fantastic Manuals, and if you find a part that isn’t so fantastic, file a bug. That will be your contribution brownie points for the day! And remember, the Ubuntu community will always help you when they can.

  • Restricted Formats for Ubuntu (I highly suggest you use the Free stuff if possible. Remember, MP3s can be ripped and so can your CDs into the OGG-Vorbis format)
  • NVidia and ATI Binary Drivers (Don’t expect to use these and have successful kernel upgrades, or even upgrades to Xorg or from one release to the next)

NOTE: I do not condone the use of binary drivers, restricted formats, or other non-free applications. I know that not everyone can follow this, and I would be a hypocrite if I said I do all of the time. Oh wait, Java is GPL now, however Flash isn’t 🙁 All of my MP3s, oh wait, I don’t have any, only OGG now. And my iPod, ya it came with DRM enabled, but Rockbox quickly fixed that issue. Do as you wish with YOUR computer, but do it on your own and learn it the right way.

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  • tarat

    Disclaimer : i’m a Fedora user, but i subscribed the RSS of Planet Ubuntu, SuSE, Debian, .. for my own curiosity.

    So, my question :
    What’s the point of Ubuntu if you’re telling your users to do everything with their own hands ? why should they not use a distro like Fedora or Slackware if they are going to do things like build their own package ?
    I tought ubuntu was about making a user-friendly distro. If not so, it’s just “Yet Another Debian Fork”, isn’t it ?

  • I use automatix. I use it because it saves time. Try selling ubuntu-powered boxes to customers without all the restricted formats adding. Never going to happen! Try going down the restricted formats wiki page one my one. It takes ~ 1hr. 5 minutes with automatix.

    If they were installed by default, I wouldn’t have to muck around with automatix.

    TBH, all this stuff about GPL etc. I couldn’t care less. I want a computer that works, fully, and in all the ways I want it to. If that means adding MP3 codex support, so be it. (MP3 is still, unfortionately, the most widely used audio codex.)
    Ditto to non-gpl graphics drivers (what’s the point of a high-powered(?) graphics card if my computer doesn’t/can’t use it?)

    Sorry to rant, but this stuff is just getting on my nerves. Don’t like automatix? So replace it with something better yourself. I am not going to waste 55 minutes on every machine I build with ubuntu installed for customers.

  • @tarat: Really to each his own on that one. Ubuntu is all about a user-friendly distro, and adding everything they need in the restricted format is user friendly as well. However Automatix comes along and creates a script that adds a third party repos to get you files that are either not include in the Ubuntu repos, or are prebuilt packages of the latest binary drivers. Automatix installs a bunch of stuff that legally and freely can’t be distributed by Ubuntu on CD or installed OOTB.

    @Johnathon: That isn’t a rant, but is more along the lines of what a lot of people feel. I have gotten used to either installing everything that Automatix usually does with apt-get all in one line. Well of course except the binary blobs. I use the FGLRX driver for my ATI Radeon, so I am guilty as well. But I built it on my own, and if it breaks it is my fault. I know a lot of people still use the widely and ever so popular MP3 format, and that is part of my job. OGG vorbis is the same if not better, and can play on pretty much every MP3 player except for iPods and Zunes. iPods at least have Rockbox, which is far better than the OS that comes on the iPod.

    The reason I try to preach the free philosophy is not only to get users to change or to at least think about it, but to show the manufacturers who create this non-free hardware that people do care about and want change. I am not going to sit and here and harp at someone for it, because I have done it and still do to this day. Until there is a free version of what I need, then I can’t help but use a non-free version.

    If we get people to switch to Linux from Windows, then we can people to make other choices when it comes to their Digital Rights/Freedoms.

    and to answer hte last one “Don’t like Automatix?”, no I don’t like it. Why should I replace it? It’s purpose is to install non-free stuff. I can install pretty much everything that Automatix installs, well the things that might be important to people like, MP3, DVD, Win32Codecs, Flash, NVidia/ATI binary drivers, and a few of the other files in a matter of minutes. No need to hit a bunch of third-party repos, get their GPG keys, do this and that, and actually waste time.

    over and out

  • Sounds like another reason to avoid Automatix, the asshattedness of the users.

    I have the non-free codecs installed. I did it without Automatix. It really isn’t that big of a deal that it’s worth adding dodgy third-party GPG keys and repositories to my system.

  • @Johnathon: I’ve found that making a copy of sources.list and generating a package download script is one of the fastest ways to set up new machines from the install CD. Quicker for you and safer for the end user when upgrading later on than using Automatix.

  • Thanks James… I’ll see if I can get round to that sometime. (Work is manic atm).

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