I've sat through runnings of six different linux distro installers, and based on my observation across all six, linux is really pretty easy to install.

Unless something goes wrong.

In all the installs i've seen, everything is OK if you just hit "[OK over and over and don't worry. A bunch of crazy screens talking about wierd things like kernel modules and packages and all these things a first-time user wouldn't understand will flash by. But none of it's really that important. Really all you have to do is just hitting OK to go to the next screen, and everything will be just fine, and it will be over painlessly and quickly.

Unless something goes wrong.

And if something does go wrong, this is where linux's biggest problems crop up; this is where newbie hell begins. Because the fact is, a Linux system is not something you install. It's something you build for yourself; you are dumped with a bunch of parts of a system, and with dotfile scripts and source installs and files with unpronouncable names in /etc/ you turn it into something usable. The distros try to set all that stuff up for you; but the problem is the distros can't guarantee everything will go right. The people who have gotten in already will insist to you that everything will work great and you'll be fine and everything's set up for you, no worry, but that isn't much help once you've installed and becuase of some tiny quirk in the installation GPM thinks your mouse is in a different place than it really is, "xffst" and "crossfire" and "icecast" are giving you big scary error messages on bootup even though you have no idea what they are, and you have no network drivers.

If either your video or your network drivers are gone, btw, you are in for a Really Not Fun Time installing them yourself. Of course, if you are dumped on a linux install without video or network drivers, you're really no more screwed than if you are dumped on a windows install without video or network drivers. (and i have experienced both. on the same machine.) The only difference is that your computer probably came with a cd of windows drivers, but it probably didn't come with a cd of linux drivers, so windows winds up easier to deal with. But this is something that is just caused by sociological circumstances (i.e. the popularity of windows) not by anything inherent in linux, and is not something that can be fixed.

Anyway, that being said, there are two things that Linux needs to have worked on in its installation process.

First off, everything is OK if you just keep clicking OK during install, like i said.. but that really isn't obvious. Linux installers need more "DON'T PANIC!" signs; they need to use some of their extra screen space on explaining, in detail, without assuming the reader understands ANYTHING, exactly what is going on at the moment and making it obvious to the poor newbies that they can't hurt anything, that if they don't understand they should just choose "psaux" or whatever the default is and keep going, don't worry, it's ok... this wouldn't even have to be done in a way that would irritate the power users; they could just ignore it. Maybe the explanations could even be in seperate little screens that are hidden until you press F1.
NO, suggesting the user go and look at the documentation does NOT help at this point, especially if looking at the documentation would require rebooting into windows and launching netscape..

But second and more importantly: Partitioning. Partitioning is not fun. You don't have to partition, of course, but most people need to. The linux community needs to understand that they really are running something people primarily run as dual-boot. And they just don't seem to realize that some people simply don't have the option of erasing all the data on the hard drive in order to put in an ext2 partition.

This may seem like a simple thing, but the fact is that Linux *is not going to gain widespread acceptance* until such time as there is a widely available free program that will let you resize your windows partition and add an ext2 partition *without reformatting*.
It may be important to note here the one really good decision made in the creation of the Mandrake distro-- and it is a really, really good decision. The mandrake people, showing a mind-boggling amount of common sense, simply went and asked PartitionMagic to liscense them a crippled version of their program. So if you get the pay version of Mandrake, you get a very nice, totally automated little program that will allow you to very simply and very easily create or destroy ext2 partitions and expand or shrink your windows partition to fit. Every linux distro should come with this program.

..but, they don't. So your average clueless person installing linux is left with four options:

None of these are fun.

But for all my yammering, installing linux really isn't that bad except for partitioning. Partitioning is the worst step. and once you've got that dealt with, everything is effortless. In the end, installing linux is easy.

Using linux, on the other hand..

Just please please please read the documentation!!!


Sputnik: Cool. Debian was always my favorite anwyay. Especially its installer. (Even if it is rather bad at handling unfound drivers during install..)
Krogoth: Wow. That sounds really awful. I'm glad i'm a mac user.
^_^

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