Getting around Linux: Newbie Mistakes or How to Screw Up an Ubuntu Installation

It’s been 8 days since I switched my development environment completely over to Linux. The first two days were quite trying in terms of customizing my environment. On one of the first attempts, I followed instructions entitled ‘The Perfect Desktop – Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn’ on howtoforge.com. This resulted in a very capable but bloated installation of Ubuntu. I didn’t even know what half the programs I installed did.

Lesson 1: Don’t Change the Home Directory for Login or User Account.

Shortly after finishing and playing around with all the various programs, I attempted to reboot the computer and re-login. When I attempted to login again, there was a problem. After authenticating, a few errors popped up – one of them I vaguely remember telling me how I couldn’t access my home directory.

While I was installing a few programs, I got tired of changing ownership of some of the directories in the /etc/ folders. I decided to change my home directory to root, hoping that will solve the problem. News to everyone out there, changing root folders for your login doesn’t work and not only that – if you don’t change your home directory back to your original settings, you won’t be able to login again.

Not all programs have a package available for installation off of the Ubuntu Package Manager or apt-get. In attempt to get around this limitation, I tried manually extracting some programs into various locations on the system but ran into permission problems. In order to get around the problem of write and execute permissions for your login, I found it much easier to just extract and run programs from directories within your /home/user_name/ folder.

Lesson 2: Don’t Try to Manually Remove Any ‘.deb’ Packages or Any Files Installed by Ubuntu Package Manager

I successfully installed Eclipse using the Ubuntu Package Manager, but I ran into some problems and misconfigured a few extensions that I was trying to ‘install’ myself. So like any ex-Windows user, I thought the solution would be to remove and reinstall the program. Well, that proved problematic because removing an application through the Ubuntu Package Manager doesn’t result in the files being completely deleted.

After a quick Google search, I found a post that told me how to uninstall Eclipse manually. So after deleting a few files here and there, the program was gone and I was like ‘sweet’. So then I attempted to reinstall Eclipse from the Ubuntu Package Manager, but I couldn’t. Each attempt resulted in a bunch of warning and error messages which resulted in no new installation of Eclipse.

I never figured out a solution to this, rather I just reinstalled Ubuntu. It takes about 10 minutes to do that on my machine. So what the hell, right?

Lesson 3: Reinstalling Ubuntu will Probably be Faster than Trying to Solve your Misconfiguration Mishap

In one day, I probably reinstalled Ubuntu on my development machine about 3 times before I got it right. You know what they say, third time is always a charm. Although most people probably don’t have this luxuary due to files they haven’t backed up or customizations that took endless hours to get just right, I was messing with a clean install so I could get away with that.

After just over a week of continuously working with Ubuntu, I have to say it’s not bad at all. There are many wonderful things I like about Linux and there are still many wonderful things I still like about Windows. I would recommend installing Ubuntu to anyone who wants to try a cheaper – and in some cases better – alternative to upgrading to Windows Vista.

From a software developer’s stand point, I can’t say for sure yet. I haven’t gone through the whole ‘software development life cycle’ on the Linux platform. I’m sure there are many problems I have yet to encounter developing software for Linux . As I get to them, I’ll be sure to post it here for everyone in the world to see.

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