Linux’s cost of entry: Almost prohibitively high

After giving it some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that all the statements (and there’s a lot of them) about Linux being more stable/secure/efficient than Windows are really dumb. It’s like saying that anything makes a better writing instrument that a slice of bread. Anything is better than Windows, when it comes to those particular attributes. It’s called a tautology, if you’re into words.

In the universe of servers, I would only recommend Microsoft if you need to take advantage of any of a plethora of Windows-specific technologies, but I don’t run a server. I run a desktop system (two, actually) mostly for work, and I must say, after a bit over half a year into this experiment, the experience has been nothing short of a slew of uphill battles – some harder than others, and even though I’ll continue using it for the foreseeable future (I’m realizing how obsessive I can get), I’m getting to the point of admitting that expecting Linux in any of its hundreds of incarnations to make any inroads into the average users population out there, is a lost cause.

Today’s battle started because I have a 90-minute audio file that I need to transcribe and I found an audio player designed specifically for this task – Express Scribe, from NCH Software.

NCH’s web site has a link to download the file and not much else, so I clicked on the link, downloaded the file, and finally double-clicked on the file in the folder where I had saved it. This is what I got:

After typing my password and clicking OK, I got this:

I thought I did something wrong, so I repeated the above steps; maybe I mis-typed my password, but I got the same exact results as before.

Knowing full well that repeating a behavior several times expecting different results is a sign of insanity, I stopped trying that.

Eventually, I got the program to work, however, the real issue is that any normal user (especially any user who came to Linux from Windows or, if you’re into unlikely scenarios, from a Mac) would’ve stopped right there and perhaps wonder if the nearest Apple store is closed at the time.

This sort of thing happens often; at least to me. Being the geek I am, I tinker with things until I get them to work, but it’s never straight-forward. In Windows (I’ve never used a Mac, but I don’t think it’s very different), all it takes to install most programs is to run that program’s installer, just like I was expecting to do with Express Scribe, or the developer would take half an hour of his or her time to write a list of steps to follow.

NCH’s download page for Express Scribe doesn’t have anything other than “This is a compiled binary program made for Linux. The advantage is it does not require Wine. The disadvantage is some esoteric proprietary formats cannot be supported.”

Getting the program to run, at first, took opening a console and calling bash to interpret the file I had downloaded and even though it ran, the fact that every time I’d run it I’d get a dialog asking for my password and another mentioning that the installation went well, made me realize that rather than running, this thing was limping around.

In the end it took a number of web searches to find out that if I want to run the program I need to double-click on /opt/nch/scribe/bin/scribe or create a shortcut to it if I want to have it readily-available. (This is actually the solution to the problem.)

Granted, most applications available for Linux install in a more humane way, but this sort of thing has plagued my experience enough times for me to be able to say, with a clear conscience, that anyone who expects to do more with their Linux system than write documents and spreadsheets and browse the web, should be prepared to pay an entry cost that’s much higher than just having to learn and adapt to a different user interface.

Update – 2012-04-16: It seems that the Linux version of Express Scribe is not supported anymore. NCH Software’s web site has no direct link (that I could find, at least) to the page from which I downloaded the program ( as of this writing, in case you landed on this post looking for the application). The best way to use the program is through wine, as the native Linux version has a bug that makes it skip about 2 minutes ahead every time you pause the audio.


4 Responses to “Linux’s cost of entry: Almost prohibitively high”

  1. tony Says:

    So… you installed a free application without first researching if it currently maintained, and then get upset when it doesn’t work and then blame the operating system for that application. Again, I must point out your dizzying method of administration.

    I bet you’d have had an equally horrible experience using that sort of logic on a Microsoft based operating system. In fact you’d probably end up with some malware installed. I do agree with your “cost of entry” theory, but for a much better reason.

    If you stick with the programs in the repos for a given distro then you’ll be alright 85% of the time. But even some poorly maintained software ends up the most recent repos. One of the great things about linux software is that if something stops being maintained then it support will normally be forked into another applicaiton with similar, and usually better functionality. So do some research and try again. Also, if I have problems with a newly installed software I’ll spend about 30 minutes researching a solution and then if one isn’t apparent I try something else. usually in that 30 minutes I’ll discover its currently maintained status.

  2. blogsperiment Says:

    Your 30-minute suggestion is a very good one, and in most cases, I agree with you: if something’s not working after half an hour of tinkering, it must be me.

    The app in question was not part of the repo’s, which accounts for most of the lost battle, and the developer didn’t bother to either take down the page or indicate that it’s an unsupported and, furthermore, buggy program. (I actually stumbled on the linux version of the program through google, not through links on their web site.)

    Thanks for your input!

    • Tony Says:

      “…the developer didn’t bother to either take down the page or indicate that it’s an unsupported…” – This is one of my peeves. I think all webpages and blog posts need to be dated so you can determine how valid the data on the page is. Of course, having said that, I mayself fail to date the things that I put out there.

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