My Top 5 Mistakes in Ubuntu

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While I love using Ubuntu, I’ve made my share of (sometimes disastrous) mistakes while using it and wanted to share them so no one else falls down the same dark paths that I have walked.

5. Not using the Long Term Support (LTS) Versions

Each version of Ubuntu just keeps getting better and better, but sometimes upgrading to the latest version isn’t the best choice. If you don’t have a lot of patience (or a slow internet connection) this could be problematic as an upgrade could take several contiguous hours, which not everyone can spare. Then of course there are the problems upgrading from one version to another, such as certain programs not working correctly or packages being corrupted, etc. Avoid it all by just sticking to the LTS versions. You’re not missing anything important by playing it safe; rather, you’re saving yourself hours of headache because you’ll only need to update every 5 years instead of every 6 months.

4. Using the command line for something that could have been done through the GUI easily

Learning how to use the command line is important, but if you know your stuff already it’s better to just take the GUI route when you can. Why? The GUI is usually robust enough to avoid making the mistakes you’d make if you were allowed free access to the guts of your Linux distro. The Software Center already knows everything that is has to do, so there is no guess work and no need to cross your fingers. A single mis-typed character on the command line could send your entire computer into utter chaos and you’d never know why.

3. Tweaking to the point of inoperability

I love customizing my Ubuntu, but that has sometimes come back to bite me in the rear. It’s important to be unique and make Ubuntu your own, but not at the expense of introducing bugs or rendering your system un-bootable. Before you apply a change, ask yourself: do I really need it? Consider the effects on computer performance, boot time and security. Most of the time, our customizations are meaningless. For example, how long do you spend staring at the boot screen? Then why would anyone need to change it?

2. Using tasksel

This program caused me nothing but utter hell. It allows you to install a bunch of programs and environments from its menu, but what no one told me was that anything that was not selected would be uninstalled, too! Halfway through installing Lamp Server, I realized this evil little program was uninstalling my games and browser! I didn’t tell it to do that! In a flood of panic, I did a hard shutdown in the middle of the setup (something you should also never do) and found that my system wouldn’t boot afterwards. I had to reinstall the desktop (sudo apt-get install –reinstall ubuntu-desktop) as well as reinstall my regular programs (browser, text-editors, etc.). Never, ever use tasksel. Ever.

1. Interrupting a Version Upgrade

This seems like a no brainer, but yes I was stupid enough to pull the plug on my computer during a version upgrade. Why? During the upgrade, I got of tired of waiting for it and decided to surf the web while it installed. Big mistake! While I was surfing, something happened and the installation froze. I waited for a while thinking it was just lagging behind, but the progress bar didn’t budge for a long time. Again in a fit of panic I did a hard shutdown.

What I came to find was a half-installed version of Ubuntu where the mouse wouldn’t work, the resolution was unchangeable, and various programs were gone. I can’t even remember the miracle that happened to fix this (I vaguely remember doing something in the recovery console, but . . .). The point is to leave your machine completely and utterly alone during a version upgrade. Check in periodically to make sure things are still moving along but never interact with it. My install still has hiccups to this day because of that.


One thought on “My Top 5 Mistakes in Ubuntu

  1. Interesting article but I am not sure I can fully agree with number 4. If you know your stuff already, sometimes the command line route can be quicker. Yes the GUI route is usually more robust (I have accidentally created accounts with no home drive through the command line). However it can be argued that giving users a GUI, you are opening up the possibility of people ticking options they have no idea what it is for. Whereas the command line would hide these details from the typical user.
    I myself use the command line a lot, even on Mac OSX but not Windows 7. I think using the command line can also teach you how to manage servers, many of the commands I picked up when using Desktop Ubuntu (Or other distros for that matter) have carried over when managing servers.
    In reference to the Software Center, are you talking about how it handles installing packages?
    Once again cool article, I particularly enjoyed your point 5. Sometimes I want to install the newest version of Ubuntu and give the new features a whirl but hold back out of fear of breaking everything. In fact a while ago I updated my copy of Xubuntu to a non-LTS copy and basically broke my system. A good lesson to learn. I think you gave the command line a bit of a unnecessary beating. I do agree GUI can effectively meet a lot of the things a command line can, especially with the global search thing that Unity can do (Not sure of the name).

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