Two months ago, Matthew Garrett made a LiveJournal post on the technical deficiencies of Automatix. Since then, Automatix-haters have had actual ammunition in their “Automatix is dangerous” crusade, and Automatix-lovers have still held to the “But I’ve installed it on X number of machines and have had no problems” line.
Could they both be right? Sure, at least partially.
How dangerous is it?
If you look at the criticisms Matthew Garrett makes of Automatix, most of the issues that come up have to do with unlikely scenarios from the standpoint of a new user with a fresh install of Ubuntu. How many Automatix users share /usr/share among multiple architectures? How many Automatix users have set the sudo timeout stamp to 0? How many Automatix users have already specified a run_command_9 in the Metacity keybindings in gconf-editor? The whole point of Automatix is to appeal to users who do not want to bother making manual customizations (editing the /etc/sudoers file, using the Gnome Configuration Editor to make keyboard shortcuts), so the likelihood that those technical flaws will affect an Automatix user is pretty low.
Is perceived success all that matters?
At the same time, the defense of “I’ve installed it on X machines and have never had any problems” is a bit shortsighted. You may not see any problems, but there may still be problems. I may drop my computer on the floor every day and not see any problems right away, but it’s still not a good idea. I may smoke cigarettes every day and not see any problems for years or even decades, but it’s still not good for my health.
Actually, a more accurate analogy would be crossing the street, especially one that’s not very traffic-heavy, without looking both ways, and then not getting hit by a car. Well, you managed to cross the street, so the danger is over… you won’t experience danger later, but you really should have checked, even if not a lot of cars cross the street.
Don’t use Matthew Garrett’s assessment to scare people away from Automatix. It’s not as dangerous as most people say. At the same time, there are dangers, so don’t make it sound as if Automatix is the recommended way to do things. And, hey, give Ubuntu’s built-in functionality a chance. It’s not Breezy Badger any more.