Setting up a Linux environment, Why so Arduous?

So lately I’ve been trying to setup a linux environment on a shared hosting web server. Let me just begin by saying that it has not been easy, in fact it has been quite frustrating. The following are some of the technologies that I’ve tried to install:

  • Python 2.7
  • Django
  • Trac
  • SVN
  • Hg
  • setuptools
  • libtool
  • autoconf
  • apr
  • apr-util
  • m4

The documentation has been lacking in every sense of the word. Most Linux technologies are compiled and built with the usual configure, make and make install show, but dealing with all the dependencies that these technologies employ is the biggest headache. For example when trying to setup svn many of the required dependencies were missing and I had to hunt them down and get them working before I could even start installing the tool itself. Dependencies themselves are fine. However, not notifying the user about them in advance is not. The way I found out about the dependencies for svn was via the errors I received when I tried to build it.

It would be much easier to install a module or package if all the required dependencies came packaged with the software. I mean, problems like these reduce your potential user base. I’m sure for a Linux guru these issues would be trivial. But it takes years of work to reach such a position of knowledge. The common man is going to give up after a few hours.

I like what python has done with setuptools. This tool literally does all the work for you. It downloads, compiles, builds and installs any python module that you request. It doesn’t get simpler then that. Once the module is installed then the user can get down to what they really want to do.

Maybe it’s time for Linux packages to move to a more user friendly installation experience. Ideally, a user wants to be presented with a list of options which he can then choose one. If he is unable to choose then the default option is selected. Basically, I’m thinking of a scenario where the Microsoft step by step GUI installation process is replicated in a command line environment. This would involve extra work but in the end usability matters, even when dealing with development tools. The extra effort must be applied to stay competitive, otherwise users will certainly migrate to other products.

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12 Responses to Setting up a Linux environment, Why so Arduous?

  1. Chris Tyler says:

    If you’re installing with ‘configure; make; make install’ you are definitely headed for a bumpy ride. On a modern distro such as Fedora or RHEL you can simply “yum install nameOfPackage” and all the dependencies will be resolved automatically for you; other distros such as SuSE and Debian/Ubuntu provide similar tools. In fact, in most cases, you can group-install all of the packages relevant to a particular use-case (running the LAMP stack, or developing software) with a single command. And there are GUI wrappers available as well…

  2. Sid says:

    Yeah, that is true but on the shared hosting that I’m working off of everything has to installed in your home directory, you don’t have access to root, which is why I had to use configure and make. Now if you could use something like yum and direct it to which directory you want to install to then that would be useful…

  3. sewa mobil says:

    Nice article, thanks for the information.

  4. r0ncha says:

    thanks for article, appreciate your job!

  5. Larry Gordon says:

    The thing is that Linux is very tricky to install. If you miss just one step or mess up a simple line of code (enter a wrong input) then everything is messed up. I first tried to install it myself and it took me over 3 days and in the end it didn’t work…
    It’s easier to pay a professional to do it…that’s how I managed to get out of those problems.

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  8. vcloud says:

    I am stricken by the way you mastered this topic. It is not often I come across a web site with charming articles like yours. I will note your feed to keep up to date with your hereafter updates. I like it and do continue up the good work.

  9. Jana says:

    I know this is an older post, but has there been any steps to make the GUI emulate a Windows install? Thanks.

  10. Carolyn Pine says:

    I agree with Sid that if you could use something like cool and it will direct you where you want to install, it would be useful.

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  11. John Campos says:

    Linux is extremelyh popular today. Just last night a friend was telling me thats all her uses now.

  12. Katie Weston says:

    Yes I had a nightmare getting one set up back at the start of this year, in the end I had to hire help off, I just don’t have the patience anymore!


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