Wubi Is Just Not Ready

Over the past few weeks prior to the Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron” release, I was skeptical about Ubuntu fully endorsing and officially supporting Wubi in Ubuntu 8.04. Previously, Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10 included Wubi, but unofficially. I’ve tested Wubi on a few different computers, and have had varied results. It works sometimes, other times it fails completely. I’ve heard the same stories over and over from multiple Linux users that Wubi either works or doesn’t work at all. The inconsistency of Wubi is what worries me.

Wubi is supposed to be a way for potentially new Linux users to try out Ubuntu without needing to partition a drive, or know anything technical at all, right from the Windows desktop.  A few clicks, and magically, Ubuntu is installed.  However, it’s proven not to be the case for a lot of users.

Originally, I thought Wubi becoming “official” would be great for Ubuntu, and the Linux Desktop in general.  If users can easily install a Linux distribution that “just works”, then the Linux desktop is on the right track to becoming a much more mainstream operating system.  Wubi is an awesome project, don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for users being able to install a Linux distribution without having to bother with partition information, right from their Windows desktop.  Among the many advantages, Wubi helps pull in a new crowd of potential computer users that just may make the switch from Windows to Linux if they see how easy it can be.  However, if these potential users are installing Ubuntu with Wubi and getting errors, how does that make Linux look? Bad.  Buggy.  “Linux doesn’t work!”.  Right?

I’m amazed that Ubuntu has provided Wubi in the Long Term Release with such an inconsistent success rate.  Each new user that tries out installing Ubuntu with Wubi faces the chance of Wubi failing.  It makes Ubuntu, and Linux in general look bad.  Heck, even Mark Shuttleworth himself called out for users to test Wubi before the actual release of Hardy Heron so that developers could fix any last minute issues. Obviously everything wasn’t fixed.  A quick glance at the Ubuntu Wiki for Wubi, shows over twenty known issues. From boot problems, to crashes, to random error messages.  It’s just not ready to be supported officially.

4 thoughts on “Wubi Is Just Not Ready

  1. Wubi is not a magic wand and expecting a 100% hit rate is unrealistic and naive. There are a few hardware configurations that are not yet supported by Ubuntu, and obviously those situations will not work in Wubi either. If a user has an ACPI issue in Ubuntu, the same will hold for Wubi. If a user has an incompatible videocard, the same will hold for Wubi. Software raid arrays and encrypted disks for instance are not supported in Ubuntu either. If you have multiple disks, the disk order can be wrong in Ubuntu too. All these situations account for a lot of the tickets. Another chunk is due to people trying to install on a unclean/corrupted ntfs partition, or using poor CD media, or force the wrong ISO, which are not really Wubi bugs. So the list of known issues is not as long as it seems. True, there were a few Wubi specific problems that emerged late in the process, but it was decided that they were not serious enough to justify a release delay (they will be fixed by the 8.04.1 release in July). And of course out of several hundreds of thousands of downloads even a success rate of 99% will generate thousands of unhappy clients. If most reports come from people with multiple hard-disks and software raid 0-1 arrays or Gate A20 problems, it is a fairly safe bet that the success rate is in fact quite high.

  2. First off I want to say that I’ve enjoyed this site since recently discovering it. However, I think it’s unrealistic for anything involving OS installation to be expected to work every single time. If you took a Windows XP Service Pack 2 official installation disc to a variety of white box machines, you would have trouble debugging the installation for a good many of them. Most windows users don’t think of this when they compare it to their first time installing linux, because they never had to install Windows in the first place. Therefore, when a good amount of people inevitably encounter installation problems with Ubuntu or whatever distro, they use this as an excuse to call linux “not ready for the desktop”. We both know that this is absurd.

    So when you have something like Wubi, whose efforts I appreciate and position is difficult, I think it’s fair to expect a lot of people experiencing problems. I agree that when the software fails to work properly, it discourages people from wanting to continue with linux, but those are just the cards you play with when 95% of the machines come predistributed with windows.

  3. Hi akoumjian,

    Thanks for your comment. I definitely don’t expect a 100% success rate with *anything* involving software on any level. There are so many different real world scenarios that it’s almost impossible to provide an OS installation that never fails. The main point I was trying to make is exactly what you touched on in your comment; it’s discouraging for new users to Linux to have to experience a failed installation on their first try. First impressions are important whether we care to admit it or not. I’ve heard a lot of failed attempts with Wubi installations in the past month or so during the last stages of the pre-release cycle of Ubuntu 8.04. Yet, it was still pushed out as an official Ubuntu installer. I strongly believe in the Wubi project, I just think it needs another release cycle to become the project that sways Windows users to Linux by way of an easy to use Ubuntu installer.

  4. I’m engaged with Ubuntu because it means a lot to afro people. Its name is the basis of Africa philosophy, if we can point just one. I love the way it works without installation, it doesn’t matter if other distros do it. The one who hit first hit the double, and that Ubuntu did with me.
    Wubi was the answer for a friend of mine who was aware of using it in his computer without knowing the system. It represents a good goal, specially when you have Vista failing and failing again. But when i try it with my old PC, with just 233 in ROM and Win2k, it said it wouldn’t work. Some people in forums said that they made no complain and installed already and found Ubuntu working well. In my family PC i can not take the risk. So we upgrade the memory to 256. It start O.K. The old machine work perfectly well with the LiveCD (only the normal issues: no flash, no mp3, etc.). I expected Wubi working well this time and it didn’t. I’m still searching. Go to forum to forum getting many answers. I know it is “the price” of having an almost-entirely free OS, but we need better strategies. Windows also has its forums, its communities. They are not losing time, of course. They work hard, also without payment, because they want their system working well.
    I believe that the real meaning of Ubuntu points to Africa, Haití and many nations those need something they can share without paying monstrous amounts of money for them. We can do something, but it won’t be easy!

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