Software installation in Linux is difficult

Linux is for geeks only. Software installation in Linux is difficult. It is not for the faint-hearted. Let’s take, for example, installing a simple game of Hearts.

In Linux, you’ll have to download source code and have to compile it from source, and then you’ll run into dependency hell and have to track down all the individual dependencies yourself.

Here are some screenshots to show you just how difficult it is…

See? That was quite difficult, and I would not recommend that for the average user. People just want to click and go. They don’t want to have to run a lot of obscure commands just to play a game of Hearts.

It’s much easier in Windows. In Windows, all you have to do is search for the software you want, download it, click next-next-next-finish, and you’re done.

Let’s take a look at how much easier it is to install software in Windows…

See how easy that was? These Linux geeks have to stop pretending that Linux is ready for the average user. Windows is ready to go out of the box, and it’s just more user-friendly.


  1. LOL. but don’t forget you can get a FREE virus/worm along with your randomly selected h4x0red version of hearts on windows

  2. HA. This is great. When I show people Ubuntu, they can’t quite believe how easy software installation actually is. And like Tim says, I’d be much more likely to trust a version of Hearts from the Ubuntu repositories than a random “100% FREE!!!” .exe file for Windows.

  3. But the windows game of hearts has pretty graphics of people. Surely that’s worth at least a 50% increase in the number of clicks to install? Right???



    On the bright side, Windows already has Hearts installed >.>

  5. It doesn’t seem like you’re running an antivirus in the background on your Windows, so a manual virus check of the downloaded file is also necessary.

  6. Business Lady: “Do I detect a note of sarcasm?”
    :looks at sarcasm detector:
    Dr. Frink: “No kidding, this thing is off the charts!”
    Comic Book Guy: “Oh a sarcasm detector, that’s a real useful invention.”
    :::Sarcasm detector explodes:::

  7. lol fail, I got all mad when I start reading. A friend pointed it it is sarcasm and i was very embarassed! I use linux on all my machines currently.

  8. Yeah, but Ubuntu doesn’t have a fantastic free toolbar with its Hearts. I mean Jesus, Linux. Get with the times.

  9. Thanks for the smile! :)

    I’ve discussed all this with friends and family, but I never thought to illustrate it.

  10. Hehehe. I must admit though that Removing stuff sometimes is just harder.

    $ sudo apt-get remove foo
    $ sudo apt-get purge foo

    In rare instances I have to do

    $ locate foo

    and manually delete them in different folders

  11. you know you’ve been using Linux long enough when you forget Hearts has come with windows since like ’95 or so, maybe earlier.

  12. Windows is plain ugly all over. Even it’s oh-so-free hearts game.

    Thanks for the laugh. :)

  13. What is REALLY difficult for someone new to Linux is to set up a triple or quadruple boot machine. I have been looking, unsuccessfully, for links to a “How to” for installing Open Suse and Mandriva on a machine that is already running Windows and Ubuntu.

    I want to do that because a colleague who shares my machine wants to try Open Suse and Mandriva. I have no objection to these two OS being added to the machine but have no idea as to how to set about it. The links that I have seen are way too complicated for someone with my elementary knowledge. It appears that Suse can be added without any problems but that Mandriva could cause problems because it uses a different boot loaded from Ubuntu and Suse

    I wonder if Psychocat could be persuaded to do a tutorial on this subject (!!)

  14. The article is wrong. In GNU/Linux you must remember a security password. That’s the difficult part for M$ Windows users!!!.

  15. @Chris:

    Virtualbox seems to work seamlessly these days; I’ve got a couple of distros installed from downloaded ISOs, and they work fine on my comparatively elderly machine. Otherwise, I haven’t dual/triple/n-booted for a good while but ISTR most distros will encourage GRUB to make additional entries to the boot menu without too much hassle. Backup and give it a try.

    One consequence of this article is that I’ve spent the last half hour playing Hearts.

  16. Aaaaaa the Repos are pure bliss. There’s nothing more satisfying than just being able to type ‘sudo apt-get install some-program’ then sit back for two seconds while it downloads and sets it all up for you. genius… Thinking back to my days using windows, trying to find freeware/shareware apps was such as a mission. And usually ends up with more broken PC’s due to the malware in those shareware windows programs.

    Linux for life Ha, even if it does involve occasionally spending far to long to get something ‘to just work’ it’s definitely the way forward. May the community continue to prosper.

  17. This is a stupid comparison.
    You can’t compare a build in installer with having to search the internet for software.

    I could also create a one-click installer on windows if I wanted to.

    Why didn’t you try to download the exact same software?

    Try downloading an Exe on windows and an RPM on Ubuntu. Then see who finishes first ;)

  18. I’ve been meaning to do something like this for ages, but just couldn’t face that specific hell they call Windows. You did a far better job of it than I would have done anyway – great show!

  19. Thank you for this. I haven’t laughed so hard since I successfully tripped one of my pink things (humans) as she was trying to go up the stairs!! :>

  20. Come on!

    Software installation is far more easier (and safer) on Linux than Windows. App installation would require you to enter a pwd, whilst Windows you would just click on ¨run¨ and the software install would start itself. With some Shell scripts these installation might undergo without you seeing it!

    With Linux, there are other ways on installing software. By using Synaptic Package manager it is simpler than what you think.

    System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager

    The system would ask for your pwd, and go search for the app you need. Click ¨Mark for installation¨ and click ¨Apply¨ the software would be DLed and installed. You would now find the app under Applications ->

  21. Wanna know what’s REALLY sick about this? Most of y’all think this comparison is sarcastic slap at ‘Winders’ and its quaint software management scheme…

    The thing is, it’s not actually sarcastic — it’s a succinct (if a wee bit overdrawn) illustration of how Ubuntu has “done it right” in comparison to a (wee bit beyond typical) experience of the insane miasma that passes for “software management” on Windoze.

    Only, we have become so inured and conditioned by MicroSlop to just “accept” what is an almost openly hostile method of managing basic resources of an “essential home appliance” that it never occurs to us that we’re being made to drive (and hand repair — by ourselves) Model T’s in the 21st century.

    The experience of Home Computing has become the “frog in a pot”, and WE are the frog. MicroSoft has been slowly turning up the heat under us for years, and we haven’t noticed that the water’s boiling… We’ve been brainwashed (or had our arms twisted) into simply accepting this as though it were “just a normal part of having a computer”.

    Take out the Ubuntu part, tone it down a tad, and what’s presented above wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in the long-suffering WinDoh!s crowd. Other than to cause more of the typical, “Oh, no, do I have to go through this AGAIN? Aaaargh!” reaction. That reflexive cramp in the gut that comes with realizing that you’re going to have to “fight the battle with your PC” once again to get it to do something entertaining or useful.

    Time once again to throw the hammer through Big Brother on the Big Screen… Only the hammer is now being wielded by a penguin, not a blonde in a track suit.

    (Helpful insight for those who are still having a hard time telling the difference between Macintosh and Ubuntu: Apple built a well-designed computing system that’s easy to use around a *nix operating system and charges many times what Microsoft charges for Windows.. and makes you buy the hardware from them, too. Canonical built a well-designed computing system that’s easy to use around a *nix operating system and charges.. well, nothing for it. And you can use any computer that’s handy and still draws power.)

  22. @Chris, @Mark:

    I started out with the dual-boot “solution” — then tried to evangelize Ubuntu on the strategy that one could always reboot back to Windows as a security blanket. Not only did I find it a pain, but that strategy died on the vine for everyone else, for that reason.

    Here’s what bears a good tutorial, because it WORKS like.. well, like Ubuntu: VMware. I’ve not used VirtualBox, but I can wholeheartedly vouch for VMWare’s (free) product line for running other operating systems within the safe confines of Ubuntu’s OS, including multiple “guest OS’s” simultaneously.

    I recommend VMware Player, which is a free download from for 32- or 64-bit Linux. Here’s what the marketeers at VMware should be telling you, but don’t: The ‘.bundle’ packages are what are needed for Ubuntu; they’re scripts; and you need to set the ‘execution permission’ on them and run them from a terminal window. (Why they don’t get with the program and make a launch-able package, I dunno…) That will bring up a GUI and it’s clear sailing from there.

    You can then make a custom launcher that will start VMware, startup a virtual machine (i.e., boot your OS-within-an-OS), and go full-screen, all from a menu pick. Then put it in its own workspace and you can go ::click:: to jump from one OS to another.

    Rock solid. Free convert-Windows-into-a-virtual machine converter. Copy-and-paste from one OS to another. Intelligent focus capture. Low overhead / high performance. Excellent pass-through control of all kinds of hardware devices. Fully compatible with VNC sessions.

    (I’ve watched videos in MS Media Player on Windows XP inside VMware Player running on Ubuntu, piped over a VNC session that was tunneled through SSH while sitting at another Ubuntu PC 120 miles away. And it was smoooooth… Like, wow.)

    Here’s the best reason why it should have a tutorial (and prominent billing): This has worked WONDERS at getting people to give Ubuntu a solid try. (Once they try it, they like it!)

    For example, my 71-year-old mother wouldn’t do the dual-boot thing, and simply stopped using Ubuntu before she found out much about it. I installed Ubuntu on her machine (side-by-side), “sucked in” her Windows install into a virtual hard drive, installed VMware Player, and set it up so that one menu pick would launch her (same, familiar) Windows machine. Looked & acted just as before, only now she could ::click:: between Ubuntu and Windows.

    That did it! More and more experimentation with Ubuntu, less and less running back to the familiar “devil you do know” of Windows, and within 3 weeks she was preferring Ubuntu for most things. A couple of months ago she told me she no longer uses Windows for anything.

    Wanna change the world from Windows to Ubuntu? I think this strategy can do it.

    So if Ubuntucat wants to do a tutorial on this, I’m willing to pitch in… :^)

  23. Ok, now let’s try this one: try to install the latest version of firefox (just to say a random software) on some-month-old-linux-distro and windows XP.

    Then make some laugh at that.

    Linux is nice if you keep updating the distro. If you just like the one you have, it’s completely impossibile (for non-geek people) to install anything recent.

    Or to put in a different way, if you want the lastest Gaim version you are forced to update all your os and software.

    That’s completely unfeasible for the vast majority of computer users, and that’s the most important reason why I can’t suggest linux to “normal” people.

  24. hi guys,
    this post is very expositive >)

    i think i’ll do an italian same post for my friend who don’t undestard english :D

    if it’s ok with the author, off course

  25. Federico, if you can give me some evidence that the vast majority of computer users cannot wait six months for the next version of Firefox (provided security updates are still patched within a few days), I’d love to see it.

    In my experience, every “normal” user I’ve encountered (I consider “normal” users those who tend to ask for computer help more than give it and “power” users those who tend to give computer help more than ask for it) never updates software. I’ve seen people running Firefox 1.5 or I’ve seen people still using Windows 98.

    In fact, I see a hell of a lot of Windows users not even installing Windows updates when prompted! Why do you think Conficker was able to infect millions of computers? Microsoft had released a patch for it a month prior to the most recent outbreak.

    As far as I’ve seen, only power users jump at the chance to install updated versions of software the day it comes out.

    These W3C browser stats back me up on this. Firefox 3 came out in June 2008. During July, only 48% of Firefox users were using Firefox 3, 49% were still using Firefox 2, and almost 2% were still using Firefox 1.5. It took about four or five months for the Firefox 2 use to trickle down to single digit percentages.

  26. It’s when what ever you are looking for isn’t located in the package manager it gets annoying.

    In my case:
    Installing the Creative X-Fi extreme gamer drivers and get them to work with ALSA or the latest OSS.
    Installing my ATI 2900HD graphics card with good performance in both games and cool compiz / beryl UI.
    And some software not packaged for Ubuntu.

    If it had not been for this I would have run Ubuntu instead of Windows 7 RC1.

  27. @federico: uh? you evidently never used a DEB based software distribution system right?

    the apt-get command, Synaptic (an idiot-proof GUI for apt-get) , the builtin Ubuntu Add/Remove software (a super-idiot proof GUI for apt-get), all of them are able to update all, I repeat, __ALL__ of the software (or even the distribution) required in order to install the newest firefox (or anything else).

    with 2 clicks.

    apt-get never broke on my ubuntu box.

    go try it.

    then speak.

  28. And what about programs that don’t have a distribution?

    I should never, EVER have to use a command line to install software. I should never, EVER have to edit a config file.

  29. @Kevin,

    I should never, EVER, have to tweak a registry key. On Linux I don’t have to.

  30. @Kevin: I agree with you… Only it’s the ‘fault’ of the distributor of software packages that force users into using command lines or hand-edit config files. (Case in point: VMware for Ubuntu, as noted earlier.)

    Shame on these distributors, but that in NO WAY maligns Ubuntu/Linux! Ubuntu happily allows all your software to be installed with (more than one) GUI installers.

    Suppose you have a fancy new plays-it-all DVD player and you go out and buy a VCR tape to watch — should you be criticizing the maker of the DVD player for your predicament? But you are…

    Perhaps your movie is only available on tape NOW, but that could change, you know. In fact, that’s exactly what DID happen in the movie industry — they took old films that went to VCR and started putting them on DVD when it became obvious that DVDs were going to become “the going thing”. What happens as Ubuntu gains mare & more attention in the industry (as Microsoft pushes more & more of the market in its direction)?

    So go lobby the software distributors to:
    1.) Make their software available for Linux.
    2.) Package their software to be immediately installable via the available Linux GUI tools.

    Finally, here’s why you should be praising Linux instead of complaining: At least there are things you can do to get your program installed; you can even install & run it if it’s Windows software (in many cases: WINE).

    If the same were to happen to you in Windoze, you may end up kicking the ox-goad… (Gonna write your own OS patch for Vista? ::shudder::)

  31. He missed the bit about “You need to be Administrator” to install this software, these “amateurs” who runs with privileged accounts in Windows all the time.

    Now Windows XP is like 8 years old — he should so a fair comparison and use Vista — I’m assuming he isn’t by the lack of aero. When he’ll no doubt have an extra privilege dialog or two, and the option to have Hearts crash if he picks a version written for earlier versions of windows which are less picky about apps spewing all over the disk.

  32. You rock :)!

    Of course GNU/Linux usability is nothing in front of windows usability, microsoft invested many hours/money in R&D and the results are great and thanks to this billions avarege users can now install software, virus, spywares, keyloggers, dialers with just few clicks :D.

  33. Problem with this Linux crap is that Hearts (and friends) is all you’re going to install. For real work, you need a proper OS (in my case Mac OS X, and in case of those who like to suffer, Windows).

  34. @Goobi:

    I believe your argument is not one of choice of operating system… I think you’re arguing against Linux on the basis of available “useful” applications.

    This conclusion follows, in part, because both Mac and Linux are “proper” operating systems — they’re both Unix derivatives with a desktop-model GUI interface. Really not that different.. Open an ‘Xterm’ window on your Mac, and you’ll be able to type in many of the same commands I can run in a terminal window on my Ubuntu machine.

    (Windows fans can proffer their NT-based OSes, and they’ll have some good points, but the execution of these, and their poisoning by the “traditions” of that glorified monitor program, DOS/Win3x/Win9x, can’t surmount the sad fact that Windows is a shockingly sorry [hostile] product backed by masterful marketing prowess — and threats.)

    The most visible, and significant differences for the end user / prospective buyer between Mac and Linux boil down to: Cost of the OS, and re-use of existing WinTel platforms / cost of obtaining new (compatible) hardware. We don’t want to go there, do we? Yeah… Mac will end up looking like Mr PC in those commercials, won’t it? (Ouch!)

    So you’re really lambasting Linux for lack of applications, as compared to Mac…

    Last time I looked, there were on the order of 23,000 software packages available for Debian Linux-based systems — of which Ubuntu is the obvious leading candidate to replace Windows as the operating system for “Mom & Pop Desktop PCs” world-wide. [Caveat: I don’t think all 23,000 are end-use applications; some are support libraries.]

    I don’t know how many are available for Mac.. (I leave it to you to fill us in on that.)

    I have the opposite perception that you have, one of “There are so many applications available for Linux, how can I efficiently learn what’s out there / search for what I might want to use?” It’s a cornucopia, growing monthly.

    I’ll toss you one sop on this issue, familiar to VERY many Linux users:


    There. [Adobe: Get with the future, dudes!]

    Further, my Ubuntu system runs Windows applications: Some natively (via WINE), others in a Virtual (aka “throwaway”) Machine hosting a pared-to-the-bone Windows OS (as we’re not the type who “like to suffer”).

    Yes, your Mac can run Parallels to do the same thing.. For $80 (vs $0). How about sans virtualization software? I’m not sure if Mac supports WINE; certainly won’t on non-Intel Macs, we do know that… (Man, why does doing something on a Mac always seem to bring us back to having to buy more EXPENSIVE hardware?? Oy!)

    Ah, then there’s the “real work” point you make. Well, at my “real work”, I have a Mac, a few WinXP boxes, and quite a number of Linux machines. We develop custom software the runs on our Linux machines, and I do nearly all of my other “real work” on my Linux box, too — even though I have a Mac in my office. Gathering dust most of the time.

    It’s just that I have yet to find anything I need to do that *requires* a Mac, and 100% of anything that I need to run to get “real work” done that can’t be done in Linux forces me to Windows — against my will.

    Otherwise, I like the “look and feel” of Linux; Mac just seems… a wee bit ‘out of phase’ when I use it. (Hate the damn keyboard, too, BTW.)

    How about “not real work”? Of course we mean games. We’re pretty much *both* out of luck, aren’t we? “All the good games are on Windows.” Well so it seems… But what doesn’t run in my virtual machine, I can reboot to native Windows, enjoy full 3D graphics card support, etc, and do all the hard-core gaming I wish. Can Mac do that?

    Oh, and much as I’ve come to respect and enjoy Ubuntu… Macs aren’t crap. (Go Steve, go Apple! Take market share away from Ballmer’s Boys!) Yet a dollar is a dollar… So please, take care to heap your derision only on products that actually *deserve* it. :^)

  35. Non ha senso un paragone cosi, sono a favore di linux, (uso Debian da anni) ma vantiamocene per altri vantaggi… questo dell’installazione dei programmi è proprio una buffonata!
    Quando qualcuno si trova in difficoltà per installare il software è dovuto alla compilazione dei sorgenti.
    make install

  36. Well, when you *do* need to compile something for Linux, it’s a LOT easier (and you don’t have to purchase anything) compared to compiling something for Windows.

    I think I’ve had to compile something for Ubuntu.. twice.

    One of those was compiling & installing kernel modules (!) and that *failed*. With a little effort, I found the source of the problem, rebuilt a zipped install package, and re-ran the build script — and it worked.

    It wasn’t traumatic, it was just annoying.

    But think about it: You can DO this in Linux. You can make stuff work. Heck, you can even modify and recompile parts of the OS to suit your software or some oddball need… (And if you don’t have the expertise, you can *find* it.)

    You are NOT going to be able to do that on Mac or Windows machine — you don’t have any source code to fix in those cases. If it doesn’t work properly in Windows, you’re STUCK, expert or not. (Have fun with tech support!)

  37. uhm lol? you just tried to install something that already was included in windows, surfing randomly on the net, good move.
    let’s say.. I need autocad or photoshop, wait.. there’s no repository containing it! oh crap, let’s hope no one asks us to show how simply is to install it now.

    This article summarizes the everyday bullshit about the os war, instead of making people reflect on what you wanted to point out (which is absolutely right), you just appear as many others troll in the web.
    You could have chosen a better example like installing openoffice which is a more useful software than hearts and comes from a virus free site and is packed in various formats including .deb and .exe and you’d have certainly made your point anyway, just in a more professional way.


  38. @grog,

    There IS a “simple” way to install both AutoCAD and Photoshop on your Ubuntu system:

    * Download & install VMware (or any other suitable virtualization tool).

    * Create a virtual machine (web tools exist to do this for free).

    * Install Windows in the VM (best done w/ no Internet access!).

    * Install AutoCAD and Photoshop in Windows.

    Then do all your work in Ubuntu, and click over to your Windows VM when you need to run AutoCAD and/or Photoshop (et al).

    Cost to you: Same as if you were running only Windows.

    Benefits: Robust, secure, reliable, malware-resistant computing, and no need to expose Windows to the Internet.

    Plus, ease in backing up & rebuilding your Windows system (when it gets borked up) — you only need delete & copy back a directory in the Ubuntu file system to save you 2 hours, 3 days, and 47 beers worth of pain and hassle rebuilding a Windows system from scratch.

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