We haven't had a Linux discussion thread for a little while, so I thought I'd go ahead and start one regarding my latest experience with it. First, some background: The first Linux I ever used was Corel's version, in 1999. It was decent, but there were hardware and video issues that prevented me from really using it. About a year later, I gave Mandrake a shot. I really liked it. Again, there were hardware issues--in particular, wireless support was essentially nonexistent. Everything else worked, for the most part, although I had to edit some config files to make my sound card and CD drive work properly. I ran that system for a few years as a development server for my own projects. Eventually, I dismantled it and turned it into a legacy gaming box. In the intervening years, I paid some attention to Ubuntu, which seemed to get a lot of praise for its ease of use and general friendliness. I tried it a couple times over the years, but there were always niggling quirks that ruined it for me: some random piece of hardware wouldn't work, or wouldn't work consistently; configuration options did unexpected things; I found myself immersed in a dependency hell; I still had to do my network configuration using config files, because the GUI facilities were incomplete and inconsistent. So, with that history in mind, I wanted to see just how easily I could get up and running with the latest and greatest Ubuntu: 9.04, aka Jaunty Jackalope. I used Wubi, which I must say provided for the most absurdly simple installation experience of my life. I told it what disk I wanted to install on, what desktop environment, what username and password I wanted, and then it went to town and set everything up. On my next reboot, I was prompted by the new bootloader to pick Windows or Ubuntu. Of course, I picked Ubuntu. The real installation then began. I was impressed that it installed without any input from me whatsoever. The only thing it did "wrong" was setting my system clock to 12PM. I suspect it was trying to set it to UTC and something just didn't go right. Well, that was easy enough to deal with. After the installation completed, which took about 30 minutes on my Asus netbook, it had rebooted and was ready to roll. I connected quite easily to my ad hoc wireless network. As far as I could tell, pretty much everything worked right out of the box. I adjusted some appearance settings to get a more pleasing color scheme, then installed some apps I wanted via the Synaptic Package Manager. SPM, I've found, is both Ubuntu's greatest asset and its foulest bane. Windows doesn't offer the ability to mass-update all the software installed on your system. SPM can do that completely automatically, if you want it to. However, actually searching for packages is a real bitch. I find that, unless you know exactly what package you want, you may not find it. I activated the third-party package sources but, for the life of me, I couldn't get the package search to find ccsm, which is the Compiz Configuration Manager. For the uninitiated, Compiz is a window compositing system. The concept is quite similar to the Aero interface of Windows Vista. The general idea is to allow a wide variety of visual effects in your desktop behavior: transparent windows, 3D animations, etc. Eye candy! So, like I said, I couldn't find ccsm (or simple-ccsm) listed anywhere in SPM, even after refreshing the cache from third parties. I went down to a terminal and entered the appropriate apt-get command, which I admit would probably never occur to your typical user. It installed successfully with all dependencies. I turned on some effects I wanted (specifically, making windows burn off of the screen as they closed, and having them "beam in" when they opened) and went about my merry way. The music player, Rockbox, worked pretty well. It did have to install a ton of plugins thanks to the various kinds of music files I have. That process was painless albeit somewhat time-consuming. Still, it did most of the legwork, merely prompting me to install a package then doing the actual work for me once I told it to go ahead. Everything seemed to be going very well. I had a nice visual style, I set up my desktop with the icons I wanted for easy access, made a few scripts to automate some tedious maintenance tasks I don't like doing, and so forth. At that point, I decided to play around with Compiz some more and see what else it could do. It was here that I made my fatal mistake. I don't know what, exactly, I activated. I believe it was trying to activate the ring-style program switcher. Once I turned that on, the entire desktop went haywire. Instead of having dialogs and windows come up, I got black boxes which sometimes had a one-pixel-thick line of garbage running across. Basically, nothing worked. The entire desktop was visually unusable. I rebooted and went into recovery mode. It had an option where it attempted to auto-fix graphical glitches, which evidently consists of nothing fancier than restoring the X11 conf file to its defaults--a file which had not been altered in the first place. This did not fix the problem. Indeed, the issue persisted and the system was essentially unusable, unless I just wanted to live in a terminal. I searched high and low for any articles that might explain how I could fix my Compiz glitch, but had no luck. One suggestion was to disable XGL, which you did by typing: gnome-xgl-switch --disable-xgl I blindly worked my way to a terminal on my corrupted desktop, and sudo'ed the command. Entered my password, then the entire screen went black and unresponsive. I rebooted, and trying to load the Ubuntu partition got me nothing more than a blinking cursor. The OS wouldn't even start up anymore! Color me very disappointed. Obviously, I had no way to recover it at this point, at least not without a lot of really tedious work that could just as easily be supplanted by a fresh installation. So, I'm gonna try it one more time, and this time be a lot more careful about what settings I change. Overall, I was very impressed with it, but it did expose one of the lingering issues with Linux in general: everything works fine, as long as you don't touch anything. A seemingly innocent option can bring down the whole system. In short, it's just not nearly idiot-proof enough. I could have dealt with the graphics glitch had there been a semi-obvious way to restore Compiz to its original configuration, but I didn't know where it was (I now know it's in Gconf) or how I could backup/restore it. Windows, at least, has a "Safe Mode" for when you've royally screwed things up and need to fix it. The closest thing Ubuntu has is the root shell, which admittedly will let you fix anything you want, but you must know exactly what you're doing or you'll only make things worse. And I never would have thought disabling XGL would somehow destroy the system. How it did that, I'm still not sure. Something else might have happened in the midst of that. There's no way to tell at this point. If anyone has any pointers for me on the things I described above, I'd love to hear 'em. Also, sharing your own Linux experiences would be nice, too!