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Automatix kicks Ubuntu into gear

By Tina Gasperson on March 16, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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There's been some discussion lately about whether Ubuntu is suitable for Linux beginners. If you raise this issue, someone is sure to tout a script called Automatix as the solution to any perceived notions of the user-unfriendliness of Ubuntu. Automatix automatically installs a laundry list of applications, plugins, and utilities that are supposed to turn a barebones Ubuntu install into desktop perfection. That sounded like something I should try.

I already thought Ubuntu was pretty easy to use. Although it doesn't come out of the box with everything I need, I quickly found out how to get just about everything I needed by pointing and clicking. The Synaptic Package Manager helped me set up extra repositories, and update-notifier made it easy to get the latest version of whatever it told me I needed.

Still, for a rank beginner, Ubuntu might take a little over-the-shoulder help getting plugins and other essential applications installed. Automatix sure sounds like an answer. It installs multimedia codecs that help you play sound and video files properly, all the usual Firefox plugins that you forget you need until you need them (Java, Flash, Adobe reader, MPlayer, etc.), archive support, Skype, an FTP client, several file-sharing programs, multimedia editors, a DVD ripper, RealPlayer, the Opera browser, and a lot more.

To test Automatix, I started with a fresh install of Ubuntu Breezy. Automatix supports all versions of Ubuntu up to Breezy, including Kubuntu and Edubuntu. It doesn't support Dapper, PPC, or AMD64 yet. Once the installation was complete, I logged in, opened Firefox, Googled for "automatix," and clicked on the first link, which happened to be to a complete Automatix tutorial on ubuntuforums.org. The tutorial was posted last year and makes reference to Ubuntu Hoary, but it works just fine for Breezy.

At first I was looking around for a place to download Automatix, but as I continued to read the tutorial, I learned that I'd need to open a terminal and type some things on the command line. It's an easy thing to do, but I wonder if it would be confusing to a new Linux user.

On the command line, I directed Ubuntu to download the Automatix package from a repository at beerorkid.com, and then to unpack and install the script. To start the script, I could click on Applications -> System Tools -> Automatix, or simply type "Automatix" in the terminal. Once running, Automatix got my permission to access Ubuntu repositories and check for some necessary packages in one window. Then, in another window, it showed me a list of all the packages it could install for me and what they contained. I selected the ones I wanted by clicking the check box next to them. I checked everything -- what the heck, Automatix was doing all the work for me, and if something gets messed up, it wasn't my fault!

Once I finally got them all selected and clicked "OK," Automatix went to work doing whatever it needed to do to get my computer to a state of configuration nirvana. Things slowed down a bit when the script paused to ask for my root password, and it took me a minute to figure that out, because the request came from the first window, which was partially obscured by the second window. After I typed in my password, the script progressed, but stopped two more times to ask again, which I thought was strange since sudo usually remembers my root password for at least a few minutes. After I entered the password the third time, the script and its two windows exited unexpectedly. I didn't get any kind of error message -- everything just disappeared. I wasn't sure if that was supposed to happen and Automatix had simply finished installing everything. But I read on the tutorial that some user input was required in order to install several of the applications. Not seeing any related troubleshooting information in the discussion thread, I decided to stop looking and just run the script again.

This time things went as they should; I entered my password once and the script went about downloading and installing all the packages I requested. At one point, the script halted because I had elected to install Nvidia drivers despite not having an Nvidia card on my laptop. I was able to circumvent that by canceling the operation. Automatix skipped the package and went on to the next without a hitch. Wine, the Windows compatibility application, was one of the largest packages to install, and it was the slowest, downloading from SourceForge at less than 1Kbps and taking more than half an hour to finish. I think Automatix should point to a repository with more bandwidth, such as ibiblio.org, where I was able to download Wine at 189Kbps.

After Wine was done, Automatix reminded me that I'd need to run a file called winecfg later on in order to setup and use Wine. Automatix still had more packages to install, though. Unfortunately, before it finished, another bug crawled out and threatened to ruin my fun. The script halted because it said I was running another instance of dpkg, the Debian package archive tool. Honestly, I wasn't!

What's a girl to do but start the script again? The problem was, I wasn't sure exactly which applications hadn't been installed yet -- apparently, Automatix hadn't been setting them up in the order listed on the selection screen. Rather than guess, I selected everything again -- except the Nvidia drivers. Luckily, the script zipped through everything it had already done and quickly returned to what it had been working on before.

As Automatix gets closer to its end, it needs more user input. You can't just walk away from it and come back when it's done. I was surprised at how long it took to run the script in its entirety. Not even counting the two times I had to restart Automatix, it took about an hour and a half to run. When it finally finished, I put Automatix to the test, and it passed with an "A."

This is when the payoff comes for having had the patience to make it through a time-consuming installation. Everything I needed worked just as it should with no further research, downloading, or tweaking. All the Firefox plugins worked; when I put a DVD in, Totem opened up and started playing it; I could share files using a Gnutella client or a BitTorrent client; Kino imported my digital video files directly through Firewire; and as a bonus, Automatix even installed OpenOffice.org and Thunderbird.

Automatix lives up to its reputation. It's worth any time and small frustration it might take to get through the script. And it's even worth that "over-the-shoulder" time you might spend with a new Linux user to walk them through it. I don't see any reason why a beginner would not be delighted with Ubuntu after a magic touch from Automatix.

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on Automatix kicks Ubuntu into gear

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Sounds good -- but where to get it?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 01:45 AM
Both the article and some google'ing point to an Ubuntu Forum post that no longer exists....<nobr> <wbr></nobr>//TB

#

Re:Sounds good -- but where to get it?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 04:18 PM
That's not so by now

By the way, the person reviewing the Automatix script should realise what a massive amount of data has been downloaded<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... good review!

#

Re:Sounds good -- but where to get it?

Posted by: Administrator on March 17, 2006 01:54 AM
The forums have been reorganized. Go here:
<a href="http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=138405" title="ubuntuforums.org">http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=138405</a ubuntuforums.org>

#

Re:Sounds good -- but where to get it?

Posted by: Administrator on March 17, 2006 01:56 AM
...and here:
<a href="http://ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=77" title="ubuntuforums.org">http://ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=77</a ubuntuforums.org>

#

contreversial

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 05:43 AM
hi,
I just wanted to say that automatix is good, but it can be a contreversial.. there was a huge contreversy in ubuntuforums.org about it a while ago, and the author of automatix almost stopped developing it... so, just be warned, that some people will not like you and argue about using it..

majikstreet

#

Re:contreversial

Posted by: Administrator on March 17, 2006 05:58 AM
most if not all of the controversial issues have been resolved. arnieboy has done a huge favor to the linux community. there are others making such scripts for other distro's as well. His support of it has been amazing as well. questions get answered fast.

#

Software Vultures

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 06:35 AM
Why is Ubuntu referred to as "bare bones"?


Ubuntu is supposed to be a Debian system already optimized for use by the general public. The inclusion of some packages would open up legal liability for violation of software patents.


If we had a patent regime which actually did what it is supposed to do by advancing the arts and sciences then it wouldn't stop Ubuntu from having this expected software installed.

#

Re:Software Vultures

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 26, 2006 07:47 PM
You are confusing patent law and copyright law. None of the packages listed violate any known patents, but they have copyright restrictions on distribution.

#

Multi restarts and no error messages is not good

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 06:44 AM
I thought the purpose of Automatix was to give the linux beginner a one stop shop to get their system from basic install to everyday useable? Multiple restarts of the script after it crashes with no error messages or information is EXACTLY the type of thing that will scare the new user back to Windows! If they need an over-the-shoulder support experience from a friend to use Automatix, then why not simply aim the script at the professional so they can do it for their inexperienced friend? It's a great idea, but the aim should be that someone who has bever used Linux before can sit by themselves, in a room with nothing but an internet connection and get through the script without guesswork.

#

Automatix Crashes if Only One Part Fails!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 18, 2006 11:52 PM
... then it reports a successful install! Easy Ubuntu is much better for the newbie!!! For one thing it just works.

#

Pain relief

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#

Easy Ubuntu

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 07:06 AM
I prefer <a href="http://www.ubuntuforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=86" title="ubuntuforums.org">Easy Ubuntu</a ubuntuforums.org> over Automatix. The former is much safer and tries to fix things nicely, while Automatix is a very careless script.

#

...it passed with an "A."

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 07:10 AM
Your experience with Automatix is not impressive, and speaks badly of both Ubuntu and Automatix. The crash without error cases are big problems. I would not feel good about my Ubuntu installation after running the script 3 times without any indication of successes and failures. What did Automatix do during the first two "failed" runs? What state is my Linux installation in at that point?

More importantly, why is Automatix needed at all? Why choose Ubuntu if it requires such a dodgy script to be run afterwards? You gave Automatix an A, but I can't see any reasons in your article for such a high rating. You make it hard to take your article seriously.

#

Scripts that ask for root password repeatedly??

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 07:25 AM
You really want to release this into the hands of a newbie? What a great way to punch past linux security and install a rootkit/trojan/virus what have you!

#

Good But not Great

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 07:46 AM
I have used Automatix and can certainly give it an A for the end result provided by it (All of the obscure things you would need). But I am more than disappointed by a few things. The asking of root password (sudo times out after sometime and Automatix takes a LOT of time), which brings me to the second issue it downloads a lot of data slowly (takes many hours on a slower 64kbps line) esp. with you sitting around to type the password<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-( .

I wish the entire package would be available on a CD ISO which brings in the following into play:
1. No more waiting for download.
2. No more concerns about what the hell it is installing / downloading and from where (if you get the ISO from a reputed site).
3. Maybe no more sudo problems if it is quick enough.

The reason it has to download is probably because some of the files might be outdated soon etc, but it must be quite simple for the linux whiz kids to write up a couple of scripts to "Automagically" create the ISOs for many common configurations ?

#

Re:Scripts that ask for root password repeatedly??

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 09:00 PM
Ubuntu has already punched past linux security by allowing root access with a user password.

#

relief joint

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#

Re:I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 07:51 AM
Thank you EnigmaOne! Champion of the True Path. Huzzah!

In light of this, I love Linux. It can be impossible sometimes. With all the difficulties I've ever had I still love the son of a bitch, but it's that kind of monster. Those who need to just "work" on a computer many times want what's bland. Linux is to Windows as composing is to listening. More freedom to create and understand by doing.

In fact - I think it would be a sad day it worked perfectly. It's part of the appeal. A constant challenge.

Anyway, peace out board. Thanks for your time.

tw

#

Legal Issues Ignored

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 09:11 AM
The reason Ubuntu and other free software systems do not come with all this extra, propietory functionality out of the box is because a lot of the stuff automatix installs is illegal for a lot of people to use.

#

Re:I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 09:30 AM
You're quite right, but the problem is that *all* the stuff the OP describes ought to be installed up-front, automatically. At least provide an installation option for "newcomer to Linux" which does all this. There is absolutely zero excuse for not doing this: for a newcomer install you MUST leave them with everything set up and ready to go: browser, email, audio, video, a few games, voip, office apps, and a bit of eye candy. Omit it, and you're dead in the water.

#

Good But not Great

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 10:56 AM
I have used Automatix and can certainly give it an A for the end result provided by it (All of the obscure things you would need). But I am more than disappointed by a few things. The asking of root password (sudo times out after sometime and Automatix takes a LOT of time), which brings me to the second issue it downloads a lot of data slowly (takes many hours on a slower 64kbps line) esp. with you sitting around to type the password<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-( .

I wish the entire package would be available on a CD ISO which brings in the following into play:
1. No more waiting for download.
2. No more concerns about what the hell it is installing / downloading and from where (if you get the ISO from a reputed site).
3. Maybe no more sudo problems if it is quick enough.

The reason it has to download is probably because some of the files might be outdated soon etc, but it must be quite simple for the linux whiz kids to write up a couple of scripts to "Automagically" create the ISOs for many common configurations ?

#

lower back pain

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#

EasyUbuntu

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 12:26 PM
You should also check the EasyUbuntu script at <a href="http://easyubuntu.freecontrib.org/" title="freecontrib.org">http://easyubuntu.freecontrib.org/</a freecontrib.org>

#

Re:EasyUbuntu

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 02:34 PM
Yeah. Use EasyUbuntu. Arnieboy might have done a favor to the community, but having seen his posts on the Automatix thread, his attitude towards other developers posting on the thread telling people that Automatix does some bad things; deleting these warning messages, licences and security is a bit fluctuating to say the least. Automatix has the same flaw that Ubuntuguide has/had; it does things without explaining them. This keeps the Ubuntu user as a newbie without the possibility to see what's happening to his machine. Earlier version enabled root account and did other things without asking permission; the reversal of the changes were impossible. Automatix is commonly known as the tool "not to use", IRC bots on the official freenode #ubuntu channel warn you of using Automatix and suggest EasyUbuntu instead. Having been in Ubuntu community as a bystander and skilled Linux user, having spoken to some of EasyUbuntu's dev's on a daily basis, I'd say that EasyUbuntu is definitely your choice.

Myrtti

#

I'm not convinced

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 05:53 PM
I have just returned to the world of Linux after a few years working with OS X at home and Windows at work and I was enormously impressed by Ubuntu's installation procedure on its own, so I don't know why it needs another script to help it along. In fact the writer's experience sounds not unlike my last experiences with Mandrake two or three years ago, where scripts would fail and leave the user dangling repeatedly across different versions.
I can see the case for a script that installs those things that aren't delivered with Ubuntu (or indeed any distro) for DRM or copyright issues, but it really does have to be seamless and failure proof to work for Joe Everyuser.

#

Re:I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 06:17 PM
!!!!

"Thank you EnigmaOne! Champion of the True Path. Huzzah!

In light of this, I love Linux. It can be impossible sometimes. With all the difficulties I've ever had I still love the son of a bitch, but it's that kind of monster. Those who need to just "work" on a computer many times want what's bland. Linux is to Windows as composing is to listening. More freedom to create and understand by doing.

In fact - I think it would be a sad day it worked perfectly. It's part of the appeal. A constant challenge.

Anyway, peace out board. Thanks for your time.

tw "
-----
!!!! GUY, YOU ARE A TROLL !!!!

!!!!! YOU WORK FOR MICROSOFT !!!! AND YOU TRY TO underdepict and understimate lINUX AND fREE-lIBRE_oPENsOURCE sOFTWARE IN A SMART WAY, so possble uers do not try it !!!

!!!! sON OF A bEACH !!!!

iF NOT, YOU ARE REALLY A MORON...

ANY NEwBIE USING WINDOWS WOULD ENCONTER AS MUCH PROBLEMS IN IT THAN A NEWBIE IN LINUX, OR PROBABLY MORE... !!!

Angel-Fr@gzill@
!!!!!

#

Re:I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Posted by: Administrator on March 17, 2006 11:50 PM


Dear Anonymous Coward,



I strongly insist you learn some English first, post messages second.



There is no excuse for your voicing an opinion in a 1337-HaXoRiScH111!!! or how you would call the outlandish gobbledygook you speak (and write).



You'd better not call anyone a troll without a looking glass in front of you. Then, well, it could be justifiable.



Yours,

YBK

#

Did not fix Ubuntu VMWare guest losing time?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 17, 2006 09:58 PM
Problems with VMWare not addressed by this updater.

1- Ubuntu VMWare guest (Windows host) loses about 8 hours per 24 hours?

2- That legal players should be available so that Automatix like downloads are not needed.

3- Automatix should also go out and delete that install file that is a security risk as it has the Sudo user and password in clear text available to every system user.

4- OT - the Ubuntu installer should address firwall install option during the install, too many folks will leave their systems open without this in place as a supported feature.

#

Re:I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 18, 2006 09:48 AM
!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!

" Re:I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Dear Anonymous Coward,

I strongly insist you learn some English first, post messages second.

There is no excuse for your voicing an opinion in a 1337-HaXoRiScH111!!! or how you would call the outlandish gobbledygook you speak (and write).

You'd better not call anyone a troll without a looking glass in front of you. Then, well, it could be justifiable.

Yours,
YBK"

------------------

YOU ARE A VERY FUNNY GUY, DEAR Anonymous Coward Newbie-Vicious... By Yagotta B. Kidding (219791) on 2006.03.17 10:50 (#87896)... LOL

1st)-I STILL THINK YOU ARE A TROLL, BECAUSE NO REASONABLE AVERAGE (no need of being an xpert) LINUX USER, WOULD BE SO MORON AS TO MAKE THE COMMENTS YOU MADE... AND WOULD AGREE WITH MY ANSWER TO YOUR POST...

I DO NOT THINK YOU WERE SO MORON AS TO WRITE THAT HONESTLY...

2nd)- mY !!!!! mARKETING sTYLE wORKS... !!!!

3rd)- i'M NOT ANONIMOUS, i INSIST IN YOU TO LEARN TO READ ENGLISH, IF YOU CAN. i BET YOU CAN, WITH A BIT OF EFFORT... i HAVE DONE IT MYSELF (AND 5 LANGUAGES MORE), AND MY ENGLISH SEEMS TO BE BETTER THAN Y0URS (LOL).

4th)- iF I AM WRONG, THEN YOUR COMMENT ON THE LINUX TOPIC WAS 200% MORON... AND HELPS Microsoft, MORE THAN ANY OTHER THING... OR MAYBE YOU WERE JUST KIDDING (Yeah, it gotta be that...).

Not yours,

Angel

#

Easy Ubuntu

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 17, 2006 07:27 PM
Hello,
what about Easy Ubuntu?
That supports 4.10,5.04,5.10 and 6.06 (Dapper)
Also I believe it supports PPC and AMD64, plus it is safer to use (Does not mess up your entire system, like Automatix does in some cases)

#

I'm generally known as being Newbie-Vicious...

Posted by: Administrator on March 17, 2006 01:51 AM
...but I do have to agree that the wibndoze-refugee contingent isn't going to consider your experience with Automatix in a good light.

This one, at least for the time being, is probably best run by those of us who evangelize Linux to the masses and help them move away from Redmond into the camp of freedom.

I'll be downloading the script myself, and going over it to see what kinds of improvements can be made to benefit those new to Linux.

#

Very Simple "Fix", More Like "Common Sense"

Posted by: Administrator on March 22, 2006 02:07 AM
-- *Insert stupid pompus comments here*
++ I Love You Guys!!! Hope this helps.

$ sudo su
$ passwd
(Change the root password)
$ exit
(Leave sudo's su)
$ wget <a href="http://beerorkid.com/automatix/automatix_5.6-2_i386.deb" title="beerorkid.com">http://beerorkid.com/automatix/automatix_5.6-2_i3<nobr>8<wbr></nobr> 6.deb</a beerorkid.com>
$ su
$ dpkg -i automatix_5.6-2_i386.deb

And, WALLAH! No more sudo time outs.

*Note, don't use the Easy Ubuntu script.
It doesn't install everything Automatix does.
It [Easy Ubuntu] is supposed to be the "Politically Correct" one.
Screw that, do yourself a favor and get the real thing.

~Tim
<a href="http://dreamhost.goldenpath.org/" title="goldenpath.org">http://dreamhost.goldenpath.org/</a goldenpath.org>

#

Repost: A Simple "Fix", More like "Common Sense"

Posted by: Administrator on March 22, 2006 02:17 AM

Speaking of Common Sense:

Teach me to use the "Preview" Button =D



Hope this helps.

$ sudo su

$ passwd

(Change the root password)

$ exit

(Leave sudo's su)

$ wget <a href="http://beerorkid.com/automatix/automatix_5.6-2_i38" title="beerorkid.com">http://beerorkid.com/automatix/automatix_5.6-2_i3<nobr>8<wbr></nobr> </a beerorkid.com> 6.deb [beerorkid.com]

$ su

$ dpkg -i automatix_5.6-2_i386.deb



And, WALLAH! No more sudo time outs.



*Note, don't use the Easy Ubuntu script. It doesn't install everything Automatix does.



It [Easy Ubuntu] is supposed to be the "Politically Correct" one. Screw that, do yourself a favor and get the real thing.



~Tim

<a href="http://dreamhost.goldenpath.org/" title="goldenpath.org">http://dreamhost.goldenpath.org/</a goldenpath.org>

#

OMG, do we really need to beta test posts?

Posted by: Administrator on March 22, 2006 02:25 AM
Fixed Link:



$ sudo su

$ passwd

(Change the root password)

$ exit

(Leave sudo's su)

$ wget <a href="http://beerorkid.com/automatix/automatix_5.6-2_i386.deb" title="beerorkid.com">http://beerorkid.com/automatix/automatix_5.6-2_i3<nobr>8<wbr></nobr> 6.deb</a beerorkid.com>

$ su

$ dpkg -i automatix_5.6-2_i386.deb



~Tim

<a href="http://dreamhost.goldenpath.org/" title="goldenpath.org">http://dreamhost.goldenpath.org/</a goldenpath.org>

#

*_* Additional Notes

Posted by: Administrator on March 22, 2006 03:09 AM
(Note to Self: Yes! Beta Test your damn posts.)

And, in the interest of clarity and thoroughness:

The forgoing just "installs" Automatix.

You then have to run it, like so:

$ su
(You want to be root for this. Don't sudo, do su. You're looking at 1-2 hours worth of automated installations. And, you don't want to be constantly re-entering your password)
Then...
$ Automatix

Select everything.

Turn on a movie. No, not on THAT computer, on your other one =D

#

Proof that automatix is dangerous

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.102.151.83] on August 05, 2007 01:25 AM
This is a nice review that shows why automatix is dangerous: http://mjg59.livejournal.com/77440.html

#

apt-get is not that bad

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.65.242.4] on September 05, 2007 06:39 PM
many places (blogs etc) have a list of the deb-packs needed to be installed, usually listed as "essential desktop programs" or something like that.
one "sudo apt-get install <packs>" line does it all. it will ask for password only once, and usually it's prob-free. it downloads from ubuntu / mediabubtu repositories, so it's fast.

#

Automatix kicks Ubuntu into gear

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 217.158.111.130] on October 22, 2007 06:35 PM
ooarrooarrooarraa,
ooarrooarrooarraa
I've got a combine harvestor and i'll give you the key...

#

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