01 May 2010

Please learn to follow directions

This is the second time I've seen someone in #ubuntu do this.

When you install sun-java6-jre, it will instruct you to go download something and drop it in /tmp and hit enter (something like that). For some reason I do not understand, some users just hit enter without downloading the file they were supposed to and putting it where they were supposed to. Of course, computers don't like it when users don't follow directions. The result is that apt sits there waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Eventually the user assumes everything is done and shuts down. Or maybe they try to install something else and find the dpkg lock in place and try to forcibly kill it or force shut down. Since Java is half-configured, dpkg ends up in an inconsistent state that lasts across reboots and is a pain to try to sort out.

All because somebody can't follow directions.

EDIT: So someone's said in comments that you only get prompted if you install on the command line. Synaptic just hangs waiting for an answer to a question it hasn't even asked. Yikes!


Jean said...

This is the very first time I'm hearing about having to manually download some file, put it in /tmp before to press enter in a DPKG prompt... Users are used to non-interactive installation behavior, so in a sense, they have "learned" not to pay attention to those messages. All this for something that should be trivial (java runtime installation). What's happening to Ubuntu (and it's community members for that matter)?

samtygier said...

the question could be put in a loop. if the there is a problem with the requested file (it was not downloaded, user accentually got the wrong file, file was corrupted for some reason), then ask again.

common issue + easy fix

Manuel R. Ciosici said...

I've come over the 'go download and then enter' issue when installing java and it's a pain in the neck. First of all Synaptic doesn't show the console by default.

And then, why does the user have to go out there and download a file? Can't Synaptic / Software Center / aptitude / whatever download the file for the user? It would be muuuuch more convenient, less annoying, less confusing and more user friendly. And if there is some legal issue I am sure Canonical can talk Sun/Oracle into giving them the permission to automatically download the file.

Eddward said...

I would say it is the package system or possibly the package that is in fault. I can kick off a large numbers of installs and go run some errands. If apt hangs at this package and I have a power outage, I'd like to think the system would be robust enough to not be left in a cratered state.

I know that there will be certain times in the install where failure will be catastrophic. It would not be worth the effort to make it truly transactional. Still, he system should not be left in such a state, perhaps indefinitely, while waiting on user action. That is a bug.

As for when the user who's pavlovian response to prompts is to answer yes/ok without reading, I think the correct answer is to test post conditions and either prompt again or fail. If you reprompt, you must allow a quit/fail option. Failure is always an option.

I could see a system that claims to be 'for experts and professionals' complaining about users not reading. But not one that claims to be for human beings. Sometime you have fat fingers, sometimes you get confused by an unusual request like having to go download a package when the packager is supposed to do that sort of thing and sometime the cat walks on the keyboard.

Mackenzie said...

Wait, Synaptic doesn't popup a window for this question? So the only way to even see the directions is to use apt-get/aptitude?

*groan* *shake fist at packager*

tomas said...

No, it's the packager's fault, not user's. Simple shell scripts can be added to the package, that can download stuff and put to temp, instead of waiting for user to do that. The only thing that can be asked during package installation is whether user agrees with the license or not. End of discussion.

tomas said...

No synaptic doesn't popup a window, but during installation user can click "show console output" to see what's happening.

nhasian said...

i just did a fresh install of ubuntu 10.04 on my laptop last night. i also installed sun-java-jre from synaptic and didnt see any message like that. also it didnt hang either. java is working fine for me right now.

Anonymous said...

Look, this is simply unacceptable. Part of the point of having a central package management system is so that we can install without having to go someplace to download. I've never experienced a windows application that MID-INSTALL tells me to download something. If I did I would not use that application. This is absolutely a bug and NOT the fault of the user.

Another bug is that folks blame the user right away without thinking of the implications. Ubuntu is supposed to be so easy that my BROTHER can use it or my GRAND DAD. This will not fix Bug #1 as yall call it.

Mackenzie said...

Ubuntu doesn't handle Sun packaging. Since it's in the Partner repository, I suspect Sun does it. Ubuntu explicitly *removed* Sun Java from Multiverse in Lucid, favouring OpenJDK.

Anonymous said...


I suspect you are right. I addressed two issues though. 1 the unacceptableness of requiring a user to download something in the middle of a download. That is quite likely Sun's fault since they are, as you suggested, probably the ones that created the package.

The other issue was blaming users for the developer's bugs. In this case the bug is probably the fault of Sun. In our case, we should really really think before blaming users for developers bugs. If we continue to do so, then bug #1 as you folks call it, won't go away.

fagan said...

I cant see why people dont use the open JDK anyway. The oracle JDK is more or less the same thing just with some other stuff like media support baked in.

Mackenzie said...

When I made this post I didn't know the bug about it not bubbling up to the GUI existed.

Because some people make /other/ packages have annoying dependencies. For example, Frostwire packages (on GetDeb I guess?) only list Sun Java not Open JDK.

Mackenzie said...

This isn't the only thing that led to "please learn to follow directions" though. One person was asking for help compiling some software. They were following a step-by-step tutorial that was spot-on. They started at step 3.

jldugger said...

Meanwhile, Flash seems to get the hint and download the file the second time the question is asked itself. What I don't understand is
1) Why the download step is needed for freely redistributable software
2) Why automating that step is bad

Klondike said...

I feel the same as most of the others here; this is the packager's fault. Probably that's Sun, and not the Ubuntu team, but it's definitely not the user's.

I've been using Ubuntu for years, and I've been a professional software developer for longer than that, and I could see myself easily Enter-ing my way through an apt install process. It's totally unexpected that I'm asked to do something as arcane as downloading something and dropping it in /tmp.

Luca said...

Mackenzie, that's a sharp observation. Both users and developers still have to learn a lot about how to talk each other.

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Mange said...

The other side of this coin is that, when looking for documentation or examples online, I've found that for every correct set of instructions, there's usually 10-15 piss-poor sets. I was browsing through some code examples online and found three or four people declaring JDBC variables in a try block, and closing them in a "finally" block. I can only assume they didn't try running their code, or the compiler woulda puked on them. I've become very leery of examples and instructions online.
BTW, nice to see other industrial fans out there in the Ubuntu world.