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Ubuntuismo: Struggling for software freedom

The Windows OS in our desktop computer at home again bogged down on us, it had a problem regarding user settings and deleted files and settings. Since I had holiday free time, it was a perfect time to introduce Ubuntu Linux OS, a free and open source platform, which, for some years now, is being supported and campaigned by tech activist groups including Agham and CP-Union.

The idea of "freedom" from propriety software and from the bugs and inefficiencies of Windows was of course appealing to me, especially since I got to use a Mac, which was way better than "Win-doze." I also used some free and open source programs available online which are alternatives for propriety software for Mac and Windows like VLC, Senuti, Burn and Handbrake. That's why I was excited to try Ubuntu for the first time.

I was to install Ubuntu in a shared family desktop computer. So the first thing I had in mind was to make it Windows-like and to make it easy for people who are used to windows to use it.
The computer I was working on was pretty slow, with combined 256 and 128 MB memory modules, without a video card, with only 40 GB hard disk. I've learned of Linux booting on CD and of "Damn Small Linux" so I thought Ubuntu would have no problems running on this desktop.

After doing some reading, I decided to take the dual boot option. It would be nice to have a back-up windows system just in case. People who talked me into installing Ubuntu always mentioned that you could always dual-boot if want to just try out Ubuntu.

So I downloaded the Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon CD and booted the desktop with it. Immediately, I felt that it was super slow for my system, it would take around 20 seconds for a click to function. I thought that it was because I was running from CD and because of my limited memory, I continued with my installation thinking that it would all be better once I install it.

I tried to dual-boot, but the partitioning task is too complicated. I already had two partitions in my HD, one for Windows and the other half for data, and I simply couldn't figure out how to create that partition for Ubuntu without deleting my data, plus the fact that it was too damn slow. I ended up doing away with the dual-boot option and just backing up my data on a separate hard disk and reformatting the original with Ubuntu on it. Bye-bye Windows.

I went on with the installation, but it hung several times. It was too late when I learned that Ubuntu installation required at least 256 MB excluding the memory used for video graphics. Damn. But there was an alternative: an "only-ubiquity" whatever option, how to do which, was nowhere to be found.

I rebooted one more time, and this time, for a reason I don't know, Gnome, the graphics interface, was not enabled, so the freed video graphics memory was used for installation, and I successfully installed Ubuntu.

But it was slow and when I ran the software updates, it hung and when I restarted it, it took forever to boot.

I decided to look for alternatives and found Xubuntu, Ubuntu's version which was intended to run on older systems. (Honestly, all the Buntubuntu terminology is confusing, why don't they just use Ubuntu Lite or Ubuntu for Old PCs?)

I downloaded the Xubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon CD image and successfully installed it on the desktop. It also took around an hour or two, definitely not less than 20 mins like other review sites claim.

I was now running on Xubuntu. I liked the general look, only, the default fonts which are big and rounded made me feel like I was in a child's gaming interface.

My next step was to make it look and feel like Windows XP. I previously saw some articles online saying it was possible to make the Linux interface look like XP. I searched again and saw the LXP project, and XPDE. Downloaded both but both didn't have clear installation instructions and I had no idea how to make it work with my system. I wasn't even sure if it worked in Xubuntu. (The terminology gets even more confusing once you encounter terms such as Debian, XFCE, KDE, etc.)

I followed some Ubuntu post-installation tips telling you to install some softwares and enable some other stuff, which I did. This time I was surprised that it instructs you to use the command prompt to download and install stuff. Kinda feels complicated especially when you're used to Windows, where you never go to the command prompt unless you're an experienced programmer or you need to configure hardware or reformat disks.

I tried also to install AWN to get that Mac-like dock, to no avail. It popped up on the applications menu but didn't show up when prompted.


I really would have wanted to install open source software, and I support the idea of open source and freedom from Windoze. But it didn't work for me when I tried to install it on our family desktop and I regret that I would have to reformat and reinstall that old, pirata XP CD.

I must admit that I was kinda disappointed by the fact that installation and customization wasn't really that easy in Xubuntu and that my excitement and enthusiasm about open source freedom was undermined by the difficulties in installing and customizing the OS.

However, I would still try to use Ubuntu as OS of our LFS laptop, with 512 memory, a video card, and 80 GB HD, I am hoping it would run better and be perfect for it.

Meanwhile, I suggest the following to open source developers:

1. Strive to make things simpler, as in really really simple! Make the installation instructions, documentation, and customization simple and step-by-step.

2. It would help to have a flash tour once you install the OS just like Windows does in order to make the users familiar with the environment and let users customize.

3. It's all about customization! Make customization easy. Create one-click themes that will make the interface fit the needs of the users.

4. Get rid of the open source jargon, make installation easy. If it's not easy, don't make it seem easy, and instead find another easy way for users to deal with it. Not everyone are computer geeks.

5. The general idea of open source itself is appealing and engaging. But don't stop there. Make the users love the interface and let the users be one with the OS once they get introduced to it.

It's the feeling that Macs exploit, the "this-OS-is-made-especially-for-you" appeal. I appreciate the Ubuntu effort to make programs search and installations easier in Gutsy Gibbon, but I think open source should focus on building other strong points aside from its being free and open source. Mac for example capitalizes on multimedia including video editing capabilities.

Maybe open source should focus on building and packaging its office, digital design, programming and web developing softwares as most of its users are computer and tech enthusiasts.

“Ubuntuismo: Struggling for software freedom”

  1. Blogger Renegade Eye Says:

    See this.

  2. Blogger adarna Says:

    ehehe, busy ka? webbie namin!