Life with Linux: Installation and Setup (Day 1)

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

Well today has been a ride.


The installation process of getting Ubuntu on my Mac mini was a breeze. Download the installer, create a bootable USB flash drive, boot into the installer and let it run. About 30 minutes later I was in a fresh install of Ubuntu Wily Werewolf (Ubuntu has the best code names).

Hardware Compatibility

To my surprise, a lot of hardware drivers worked right out of the box. My Wifi, Xbox controller, and Ethernet connections were working fine, and surprisingly even my Bluetooth devices are working! The Magic Keyboard works great, and the Magic Mouse works, but Ubuntu doesn't understand the swipe gestures on it, so I'm using a simple Microsoft mouse instead.

There is essentially nothing wrong with my computer's hardware right out of the box, and that's a huge improvement over the last time I used Ubuntu many years ago. Kudos to them for getting the drivers in the initial install instead of having me venture all around the web looking for drivers.

Installing a Few Apps

My experience had been relatively positive up until this point, but things started to crumble pretty quick once I starting looking to get my first few apps installed.

My first step was to go to the Ubuntu Software Center, essentially the Mac App Store for Ubuntu. I knew things were off to a bad start when I saw how ugly the USC looks, but the content is even more concerning. There's simply tons of garbage apps featured, and finding anything compelling was next to impossible.

For reference, the #1 featured app is currently Radio Tray, an internet radio streaming app. Yay, 2002 me is so excited for this! But never fear if that's not your style, the next app is hocr-gtk, which is described as "Hocr-gtk is a GTK+ based graphical interface to the libhocr library. It can open multiple image formats and uses aspell for internal spell chacking." Hot damn, won't someone get me a drink, I'm overwhelmed with excitement!

The story continues for all the apps in the store. Even the more customer-friendly apps have names and descriptions that are clearly written for developers by developers. They use technical jargon in their descriptions and profive terrible screenshots of their apps. These are not marketing masters at work.

But then the adventure gets weirder if you want to install something that's not in the store (including little apps like Google Chrome, Transmission, and Skype). These apps can be downloaded at the same sites you would have gone to for the Mac/Windows version, and they download a .deb file that acts like any other installed you've used before. These are still okay, but there is another type of install you're going to have to do, and it drives me crazy.

For a lot of apps, the preferred (and sometimes only) way to install them is via the command line. Themes are a particular headache. Here's how you can easily install the Moka theme I'm using:

  1. Open the terminal
  2. Type sudo add-apt-repository ppa:noobslab/themes
  3. Type sudo apt-get update
  4. Type sudo apt-get install orchis3

That's all there is to it! The problem, of course is that the Terminal should never need to be used by normal users. But themes and customizations are some of the things that are supposed to be the best parts of Linux, so you'd think they want everyone to be able to use them.

I have much more to say about themes and installing apps, but that will have to wait for another day.