Archive for the ‘Linux’ Category

The dreaded switch from Windows to Linux

Monday, March 16th, 2009

When I saw how bad XP really was as far as handling spyware/viruses no different than 2k, I decided to just move to Linux, kill my Windows partition completely, and have been happy ever since. That was exactly my reasoning for staying with Windows 2000 while Windows XP was being introduced.

Previously my attempts to move to Linux had been unsuccessful because I had problems getting certain hardware working (obscure sound card, video drivers) and was concerned about what software would be available (certain emulators I had grown fond of, video codecs, etc), which was what most people worry about. “Well does it have Nero?”. No, but it has 6 or more different types of burning programs to choose from – all for free and with a self-explanitory GUI. “But it won’t run Nero?”. Those are the people who simply don’t want to even give it a chance. Well fine and dandy. The spyware/adware/viruses/trojans/worms are worth putting up with so you can run Nero – that’s your choice (actually, the makers of Nero were kind enough to make a Linux port). Anyway, even Windows 2000 was giving me some problems, such as booting into a blue screen telling me my registry had become corrupt, and also getting infected by viruses/worms such as Blaster.

I had everything up to date, all patched up, antivirus installed, and I have enough common sense not to click on strange things, but still contracted the virus. All because of an exploited flaw in Windows that I could do nothing about except wait for Microsoft to issue a patch…when they felt like it. A few reinstalls later and I just figured it wasn’t worth it putting up with all the headaches.

When I started running Linux, I quickly saw the advantages. Installing software didn’t require the usual “Next, Next, uncheck every checkbox, delete desktop and quicklaunch icons, uninstall additional software installed along with the software I actually wanted, check for hidden startup items, make sure program doesn’t phone home”. When I started my PC I wasn’t greeted by millions of splash screens, applications that couldn’t make a connection popping up and letting me know, I didn’t have to readjust settings that kept resetting for some reason (volume levels, icon positions on the quicklaunch). Linux is about using your PC and not just working around problems to get what you want. Then I realized that upon discovering all this I didn’t even have to worry about viruses at all, and I had no problems with crashes. Even if programs didn’t behave in a way I expected I found it simple to find solutions since the error messages meant something (not the typical “FATAL EXCEPTION IN 0x011a43”) and I could see exceptions thrown if I launched an application from a terminal.

Microsoft needs to start shipping installs secured from the start. Require an admin/install user account for new system wide applications, sandbox user installed software in their home directory/profile. Users then don’t trash everything when they kill their profile or home directory. Windows has all the necessary features to do it. It’s had them since the first versions of NT.

Microsoft frankly can’t be bothered with it and there’s no profit in a secured system when they can instead continually be selling you upgrades as security fixes. It isn’t rocket science, it’s just segregation of responsibility. Unix has been doing it for 30 years.

For instance, Vista’s new “People Near Me” feature, which searches over a Wi-Fi connection for other Vista users nearby and then sets up a peer-to-peer network with them. Yeah, that sounds pretty secure. When they have things like the WMF flaw in the designs, which ended up in Vista as well as XP and 2000 all the way down to 3.1, they are NOT about security. This has little to do with MS bashing – it’s just that MS doesn’t think much about security and most IT people know it whether they’re Windows fanboys or not.

Since “upgrade or keep crashing” was one of XP’s marketing points, it makes me wonder exactly what they’ll come up with to market Vista. Maybe something along these lines. The funniest thing is that Microsoft has no problem telling you how bad their past products are when they’re offering a new version of their software. It’s amazing how it was “the best thing ever” when it was first released and until it end-of-lifed. They never admit to making a bad product until it’s time to shell out some cash for an upgrade. Amazing how that works. Ah well, I guess it makes good business sense, right?

All in all, I’m glad I switched. My girlfriend, however, gets upset a lot when I mention how much more I like Linux than Windows – I mean downright pissed off on occasion. Yeah, I bash Windows a lot. I don’t mean to “rub it in” or whatever, but I find quite often that people are just so used to putting up with Windows problems, it becomes part of the norm and they don’t realize the problems any more because it’s an everyday thing when using Windows. For instance, spyware bogging down a Windows PC – the response is to immediately run Spybot or Adaware to clean things up. Ok, you’re running those for half an hour to fix a problem that you shouldn’t have to put up with to begin with. Some say Linux hasn’t been targetted because it holds such a small part of the market, but it comes down to security again. Internet Explorer is embedded so deep into the OS, you simply can’t uninstall MSIE. You just can’t. With this deep integration, it makes it very easy for spyware/adware/viruses/trojans/worms to do their thing – especially when, by default, you have admin rights given to you on the machine as well. All you need to do is visit a web site in order to get any of these ran on your Windows PC – all without user intervention…it’s all nice and automatic. This doesn’t happen on a PC running Linux because you’re forced to create a secondary user account during the install and run under that user (with most Linux distros). That and programs just don’t install without prompting you for your root password.

Perhaps Windows 7 will be better, but barring a complete re-write, I don’t believe things will change much in the spyware/adware/viruses/trojans/worms realm when Windows 7 is released. Vista only added a “are you sure you want to do this” popup that becomes incredibly annoying to assist in “security”. I hear that Windows 7 allows you to disable IE, but we’ll see what it looks like when released. But why listen to me, I’m just a Linux fanboy/zealot 😉

Windows security – there are no guarantees

Friday, February 20th, 2009

This isn’t some sort of pro-Linux rant, but rather a general security rant so take it as such.

With regards to security, Windows is provided “AS IS”. Show me one place where Microsoft even makes the slightest guarantee about security. The product was never engineered to be secure from the beginning, and barring a complete rewrite, it never will be. They’re not dumb, they know it’s not very secure, and they don’t advertise it as such. They don’t need to “disclaim liability”, the courts need to prove why it should be assigned to them in the first place.

Anyone who has an expectation of security in Windows is a sucker, plain and simple. Think about the common excuses: “99% of our customers use it so we have to also.” “We store all our data on it, it OUGHT to be secure.” “It’s too expensive to switch to something else.” You choose to use Windows, you get what you pay for. If you failed to do proper research and just created an assumption of security inside your head, it’s your own fault. Quit whining about it.

Everyone wants to sue Microsoft just because they exploit human stupidity, and they’re really good at it. Great use of the court system.

Unix security is generally not an issue because it was designed with security in mind from the very beginning. Windows was never set up with multiple user accounts in mind, nor was it set up with security in mind. This is not necessarily a bash on Windows, it’s just a fact of how it was designed. Multiple user accounts seperated from the root account and manditory secondary user account creation are definitely two very strong points that assist in Unix security. The Linux and BSD family were based off of Unix, so those two “variants” were also designed with security in mind from the beginning as well.

Now that Windows is, and has been, pretty much the most used operating system amongst home users and businesses, Microsoft has to backport their operating system to obtain the security that the internet demands. Since home users and businesses rely on Windows now and are pretty much locked in to requiring Windows and Microsoft software, Microsoft knows that they can just keep patching their shoddy software rather than doing what should be done – a complete rework from the ground up.

What’s worse is that even if a security flaw is found, Microsoft still only releases patches on “patch Tuesday”. That’s right, you have to wait for them to create the patch rather than having several agencies able to view their source code and create a patch for them or work with them toward creating a patch. If you think about that for a second, a virus writer could take advantage of a flaw and create a worm/virus and take over thousands and thousands of Windows machines in no time…all while waiting for Microsoft to create a patch. Yes, this has happened several times in the past and has had devistating effects on everyone using the internet. From “slowing down the internet” because of bandwidth-consuming worms (think Code Red, Blaster), to receiving tons of spam in your inbox every day (think Beagle, Sobig), to computers being rebooted every few minutes without user intervention (think Zotob). So while worms generally don’t directly affect Unix-based machines, they indirectly affect Unix-based machines by consuming resources by worms attempting to propogate and by receiving the payload (spam) of worm-infected machines.

Why use anti-virus software?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Here is a secret for you: You do not need AV software.

Actually, let me clarify that statement. You might need AV software if you are a very uninformed user who likes to open email attachments from unknown people or download lots of useless software from questionable sources. However, if that person I described is not you, then you do not need AV software, and it is just taking system (and apparently network) resources.

The reason you don’t need AV software is because there are only two ways to get virus on your computer: 1) Network-related software you use is exploited. 2) You willingly (although accidentally) run the bad software yourself. Yes, I’m simplifying things, but it is hardly any more complicated than this. Since you are an informed user, you have learned not to run bad software, so #2 doesn’t apply to you; and since you patch your system regularly (right?), #1 is very unlikely.

However, there may be a tiny window between the time that an exploit is found and the patch being made available where you could potentially be vulnerable. Theoretically, AV software can ‘protect’ you in this scenario since virus definitions are made available sooner than patches. The solution here is, again, to be an informed user. If a piece of software you use becomes vulnerable to a new exploit, you should know about it and take the necessary precautions yourself during the time before a patch is released, in order to protect your system. This will protect you much better than any AV software will, and it’s not difficult since there are not many pieces of software which could even be exploited (the main ones are your browser and other internet-related apps).

Now, I’m a user of Linux, BSD, and (rarely) Windows. I have been running Windows for years without a hitch by being an informed user. Actually, I also usually install patches long after they are available because I turned off the automatic download/install feature (I like to know what’s using my internet connection), and for some reason it doesn’t even notify me of the availability of patches so I often forget. Nevertheless, I’ve never been compromised mainly because I don’t run questionable software or read unknown emails, and the security of the software (and patches) has been good enough.

In my opinion, AV software is a scam. It might be useful for grandmas and other clueless users who open email attachments indiscriminately, but I cannot see how anyone informed enough cannot also manage their own security. Not that all users are informed, but I should think that you should be informed enough to be able to live without AV software quite easily. Bottom line: run a firewall (preferably a hardware firewall), patch often, be informed, and ditch the AV software.

Windows vs. Linux – security and privacy

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Germany is a place that knows what wiretaps and domestic spying is all about. Everyone’s grandfather can tell them what the Nazis did to friend and foe alike. Public display of Nazi symbols is still against the law because it outrages so many. People who lived through the East German Police state have more recent and personal reasons to fear this kind of monitoring. Domestic spying is about eliminating political opposition and the only way to save yourself from that is to run away. Eventually, even those who manage to keep out of sight by doing nothing are destroyed by the schemes of those in power. States that do this are out of control.

If you understand these things and how computers work, you have no choice but to use and advocate free software. Non free software has the ability to end freedom of press and every other right. We are well down that path, with newspapers raided, citizens spyed on, an unpopular war of aggression, torture and other evil things. You can have your privacy with free software and should demand it.

If you have complete control over your software, as free (as in freedom) software guarantees by definition, you can enforce your own privacy and security. If you have a solution you cannot modify, you are completely restricted to its ideas of privacy and security.

Human freedom has to extend to freedom of information and freedom of control over our own tools, including software and hardware. If we allow our corporations and governments to control our tools, they move on to controlling our media (DRM’s already here) and eventually our legal freedom (DMCA raids?!)

The vast majority of people have no way to verify that their software is secure, even if it’s open source. And even the people who do have the ability aren’t going to. Are you really going to read through every line of code in the Linux kernel looking for backdoors? Well, of course not, however, freedom means that you can do all of that and teams of people do for both cooperative and competitive reasons. All of the usual guards for non free software apply. People are watching their computers and will report suspicious communication. Then come all of the free software checks. The code gets checked upstream by the team that creates it and then downstream by many distributions that use it before finally being checked by the much larger number of users. The free software community is able to verify code from creation to desktop use and it’s a fairly competitive place. For every kind of check you have in the non free world, you have more and better in the free world as well as greater competition and willingness to report wrongdoing. This makes it unlikely you will be caught by malicious code.

What can Linux do that Windows can’t?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

So I will ask, give us even one example of something that Linux is capable of that Windows is not capable of doing.

I suppose you mean at a desktop computer, because otherwise one could go endlessly about all the embedded uses of Linux. Considering applications, I would say both systems are pretty much equivalent these days. I can’t think of any application in either Linux or Windows that doesn’t have an equivalent in the other system. I mean other than viruses, of course, that seems to be a category of “applications” where Linux is still very much behind… 😉

The biggest advantage of Linux over Windows for me is ease of use and that seems to be an interesting advantage, because Windows is predominantly GUI oriented. A graphic interface is better for some jobs, a text interface is better for others, just like a spoon is better for eating soup and a fork is better for steak.

Try to automate any task in Windows, it’s a real pain in the ass. Programmers often end doing things through kludges like Excel macros for the lack of a good text-based interface. For instance, let’s say you were sent a project that has dozens of directories with thousands of files in it. Let’s say you want to rename all *.jpeg files to *.jpg. How would you do that in Windows? In VMS that would be a piece of cake, in a Unix system it’s more complicated, for i in *.jpeg; do mv $i `echo $i | sed s/jpeg$/jpg/ – ` ; done or something like that would do it, but the easiest way to do it in Windows that I can think of would be a VB program.

Ironically, ease of installation, which is often cited by XP users as an advantage of Windows over Linux, seems to be one of the areas where Linux shines. I have created a standard system configuration script with a dozen or so functions, one for each type of application. There are functions for DVD playing, scientific applications, office applications, graphics, development, electronic circuits design, etc. When I install a Linux system, I install the basic system and run my script, after uncommenting the function calls for the types of applications I want in that computer. Then it’s just a matter of waiting until apt-get does its job. No need to insert CDs, no need to click anywhere, no need to run setup.exe, no need to mix and match all the *.DLL files each application expects and best of all, no reboots after installation.

I think both Linux and Windows have made progress in the last ten years, and one should always consider that. It’s stupid to compare Kubuntu with Windows95, or XP with a terminal-based Linux install. But in my opinion, Linux has evolved much more – both because Windows was more mature ten years ago and because Linux has some real advantages. I think being an open and free system is an advantage in that people make it evolve towards what the users prefer, rather than what marketing decides. Another advantage is that Unix has an excellent basic conception. Windows evolved over DOS, a system whose basic conception was to make it run in the available hardware of 1981. The emphasis on GUI solutions, the lack of a good scripting system language, and the need to maintain compatibility with the DOS roots are limitations that make Windows inferior to Linux.

Why virus scanners are useless

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

It’s been a long time since I’ve used a virus scanner at home, and I’ll tell you why:

1. Well, I’ve been using Linux since 1998. However, let’s put that aside as this still applies to before I completely converted to using strictly Linux in 2002.

2. It eats up system resources like you wouldn’t believe. Thanks, but I’d rather put my processor to better use – something other than doubling the processor power it takes to open a spreadsheet.

3. They can only find known viruses. Maybe being “protected” from tens of thousands of viruses comforts you, but I’m worried about the few no one knows about yet, and AV software provides no protection against those.

4. They are only partially successful in removing virii. How many times have you seen “Delete Failed! click here for more info”? I saw it a few times too many. I SHOULD NEVER EVER SEE THIS MESSAGE! This is a design failure.

5. AV software is not effective as a means of prevention. Virii come in two flavors, trojans and worms. Trojan – idiot user clicked on BrittneySpearsNaked.jpg.pif.bat.js.exe; AV cannot prevent this. Worm – Windows security issue; AV cannot prevent this. This is an over-simplification, and may not be 100% technically accurate, but you get the picture.

6. If AV software can’t prevent infection, and if it sometimes can’t even remove the infection, what good is it again? It’s good for Symantec, its good for Macafee, and its good for IT professionals who get to say “its not my fault, I did everything i could to prevent it” next time a code red happens.

Thoughts on worm complexity

Friday, March 7th, 2008

I have often wondered why we haven’t seen the emergence of worms with truly spectacular levels of sophistication. Nearly every worm/virus is small presumably so that it can spread quickly in limited bandwidth situations. The limited size means limited sophistication and sometimes flaws in the design or operation.

To the best of my knowledge no one has developed a worm with fully pluggable attack verctors and pay loads and automatic updating. An attack from such a worm would be all but unstoppable because there would always be a huge user base from which to start an attack. The attack would go like this:

1. Author writes the first version of the virus and deliberately infects machines. This version doesn’t spread on it’s own. This version doesn’t need to be terribly good it just needs to infect 1000 machines or so, be upgradeable and form the initial core of the virus P2P system (maybe that should be V2V?).

2. Author refines virus and releases a new version. Some of the 1000 initial infections are still infected and upgrade themselves. They go on to infect other boxes automatically. Each box will try and upgrade and infect new boxes.

3. Hole exploited by the stage two virus is closed. Many are lost.

4. Author writes new exploit module and uploads it to virus network which them re-infects lost boxes and new boxes.

5. Virus scanners get to understand core virus and destroy numerous infections.

6. Author releases new version into the virus network which upgrades currect installs. And so it goes on.

Perhaps someone is already doing this, I don’t know. It seems like a natural evolution for viruses though. A sort of virus P2P system so that the virus network can respond to attacks. You could even build viruses that knew the network was under attack and hid or destroyed themselves.

IT Security – people are the weakest link

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Your computer – how does the virus get there in the first place. SOMEONE must first of all get it to execution. Malware doesn’t suddenly jump in and exist. It has to be brought into the machine. A virus or trojan does jack when it just sits on your machine. It is a program. It has to be executed to do its “magic”.

There are exactly three ways to get this done. First, remote (RPC) exploits, which is easy to defeat with a router that does not allow any packets in to sensitive ports. Second, exploits in programs. This is harder to secure, since you can never know whether your mail client or your web browser (or one of its myriad plugins) has such a vulnerability. Your best bet is to use something that has nearly no market share (and is thus not interesting for commercial malware users).

And finally, the user himself can execute it. And, believe it or not, this is the most used and most successful way of infecting a machine. In other words, the main security problem is not in the machine. It’s in front of it.

Hackers: Nuisance or Necessity?

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Here’s a report I wrote back in 2002 for an Composition class. It’s kind of interesting to look back and read some of this stuff, so I thought I’d post it as well. Enjoy!

The word “hacker” brings several images to most people’s minds ranging from sweaty, pimple-faced kids with too much time on their hands, to malicious programmers who feel great satisfaction when defacing web pages and stealing credit card numbers. Near the middle of the 20th century, the word “communist”, to a lot of people, represented all the evil things in the world, and now at the beginning of the 21st century, hackers have been labeled the new age communists. For years, the media has helped to mislead the general public into thinking hackers stand for everything that is evil and unlawful on the internet.

Since the mid-1980s, media attention to technology has increased just as the industry of technology itself has increased. Media sources such as television, newspapers, and movies have used the word “hacker” in a negative way for as long as many individuals can remember. Media resources often have been the first time the vast majority of people had ever publicly heard the word “hacker” being used, which has been detrimental to how hackers are perceived. Unfortunately, many people feel there is a clear consensus that most of the stereotypes given to hackers are true. Only through the realization of what truly defines a hacker, examination of how hackers have contributed to the internet, and learning what hacking really is, can there be any chance of replenishing the soiled name that hackers have been given in the past.

It would appear to be pointless to attempt to change the minds of millions of people by skewing opinions to believe hackers are welcome users on the internet or hackers should be considered acceptable in todays growing internet-influenced society. The US Department of Justice has created several laws regarding hacking on the internet including their own interpretation of what a hacker is. Newspaper articles are printed daily describing how hackers have illegally obtained credit card numbers, illicitly distributed copies of copyrighted proprietary software, and even obtained and used personal identities to perform unlawful acts in the internet community. In addition, according to Security Space, an internet security company, advertising networks such as Double Click, Link Exchange, and America Online benefit from “web bugs” placed on web sites to gather e-mail addresses and online purchasing habits.

Perhaps the most common misperception about hackers has been the word “hacker” itself. Popular, although negative, descriptions of hackers have included “a malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around”. The best choice for a negative description of the word “hacker” would be the word “cracker”. According to Eric Raymond, the President of the Open Source Initiative, a non-profit corporation that promotes and distributes free, open source software, the word cracker would be more fitting for the description of what most people envision a hacker to be “one who breaks security on a computer system or computer network. The definition of hacking originated back in the 1950s as “a teenager who operates ham radios or tinkers with electronics” which pre-dated home computers by over 20 years. Presently, the correct definition of the word “hacker”, as supported by many long-time internet users, is “A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary”. One of the most appropriate ways to help reverse the stereotype that has shrouded hackers would include computer professors to start teaching the difference between “hackers” and “crackers” in public schools and universities. Discussion of hacking in a positive manner in a learning institution would help curb the trend of naming hackers as destructive internet users.

Countless internet users have been led to believe hackers have nothing to offer other than ways to steal credit cards and various methods to break into computers; on the contrary, hackers have always been an immeasurable asset to the internet community by creating software to aid in securing computers. By creating programs to check for vulnerabilities within networks and server computers, hackers have helped system administrators and network administrators find ways to more efficiently and effectively do their jobs. Notable creations by hackers are Linux, a free open-source operating system, and the Apache web server, a free open-source software. As of 1999, there were 12 million internet users using Linux as their primary operating system, and 63% of all web servers were Apache web servers. Linux and Apache have been tested several times against vulnerabilities and security, then directly compared to Microsoft’s operating systems and web server software, continually resulting in Linux and Apache being superior in comparison. Perhaps if more internet users and web site owners switched to using alternative operating systems and superior web server software such as Linux and Apache, the internet would be more secure against crackers.

Online privacy breaches, that have resulted from several credit card number databases being broken into by crackers, have also been a concern to many internet users. The ignorance of system and network administrators who are not imposing strict security measures on corporate and student databases have often resulted in even the most novice internet user accidentally stumbling into “protected” databases by typing a wrong character when entering a URL in a web browser. A disturbing fact associated with virtually unsafeguarded databases ran by corporations that is most corporations sell personal data given to them in confidence by customers making online purchases, signing up for e-mail accounts, or running programs created by online businesses. In addition to the sale of personal information by corporations, personal information is also stolen via a “backdoor” in some programs built by large corporations often without a typical internet user knowing a program they’re using is stealing information from the internet user’s computer. If a typical internet user decided to create a program that steals information from another internet user, the program is then considered a virus by United States Cybercrime Laws. If hackers had not discovered the devious methods used by corporations to gather information, it is unknown what other illegal methods to gather information a corporation could have been presently using. In order to resolve the issue of corporations stealing information through “backdoored” programs, laws need to be enforced equally against corporations as much as the average internet user by the US Department of Justice and FBI.

Media sources such as television, newspapers, and movies continue to use the word “hacker” in a negative way and may not change their attitudes toward hackers unless people are more informed about what hackers are and what they have done for the internet community. The hacker community has lost much of the respect it has earned over time because of inaccurate journalism and unfair stereotypes; meanwhile, hackers have made the internet safer and more enjoyable for anyone who goes online. Unfortunately, persistent negativity being reflected on hackers and the hacker community continually tarnishes the way hackers are viewed by the general public.

In conclusion, educational institutions and media resources need to be persuaded to educate and inform individuals about what being a hacker means and what hackers have contributed to the internet. Over half of all web sites have relied on what hackers have freely given to the internet, so it could be said that the internet may not have grown into what it is today without the aid of hackers. Also, federal laws regarding “hacking” should be clarified by having computer experts help write laws, rather than rely on politicians who only know basic computing, and then rigorously enforced by law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and local police. Perhaps after professors and reporters have been familiarized with the word “cracker”, it may change their usage of the word “hacker” to include the various online definitions in which the word “hacker” had actually been intended, and hackers could finally command the respect they deserve.

Help is here! Answering your questions about Ubuntu Linux

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Ok, I’m going to try to help.

First things, first – if you’re looking for programs to perform a certain task (play mp3s, webcam, etc), try using the “search” feature in Synaptic. You can search by program name, program name and description, and a few other criteria. These two are the ones I use most.

Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s go down the list:

Of course, I also told him I would install the MP3 support

I’ve installed all sorts of Linux variants on dozens of machines and Ubuntu was a fair share of those. I never had to “install mp3 support”, I just installed xmms. I can’t remember if it was installed by default or if I had to apt-get it…either way, that takes care of that. As far as OGG goes, I just don’t use it. I know…what kind of geek doesn’t use OGG, right? 😉

Another thing was Webcam support, yep, I connected a Genius webcam NB and it detected it automagically, unfortunately there is NO program to capture video or at least see it.

I’m assuming you’re talking about no program in Windows to capture or see video. I typically use camstream in Linux. I know there are several more options out there (again, search in Synaptic), but this is the one I’m used to.

But, what I wanted to show here is that there ARE those small annoyances that just keep getting across the way, until those are not solved it would be difficult for the “normal” people to migrate.

Yeah, there are small annoyances here or there in Linux, just like there are in Windows. For example, I have a HP PSC-1209 printer/scanner. Windows automagically “found” a new printer attached to the USB port. The drivers that Windows automatically installed didn’t work. I then grabbed the HP install CD so I could install the correct drivers after uninstalling the drivers that Windows was nice enough to install…without asking (you know, so the printer would “just work”). In Ubuntu, I just clicked on “Printers” -> “Add Printer” -> selected my printer model from the list -> waited a few seconds for drivers to kick in -> done (no reboots either!). Overall, it took me 25 seconds to install the printer on Ubuntu Linux, and about 5 minutes in Windows.

Overall, one tool that helps Ubuntu users out quite a bit is EasyUbuntu. That’ll take care of quite a few of your issues.

Ubuntu really isn’t that difficult, even for new users. Heck, my 11 year old daughter uses it on an AMD 450Mhz machine with 256MB of RAM and she used XP for two years prior to Ubuntu 5.04. I don’t get calls for “Daaaaaad! Where do I find X” or “Daaaaad! Do I send this error report to Microsoft?” any more either, which is quite nice. The Gnome menus just seem to make more sense than a Windows menu to find the programs you want to use. Anyway, good luck to you and your friend – I hope this post helps out.