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System76 patches APT for Pop!_OS to prevent users breaking their systems

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There's been a huge amount of talk recently about switching to Linux for gaming, thanks to the challenge from Linus Tech Tips (YouTube) where two of their people tried the full-switch but it didn't go so well for Linus and Pop!_OS. Now, System76 are trying to improve.

It was pretty unfortunate that as Linus was going to install Steam, Pop's packaging had some sort of breakage that wasn't quite picked up and Linus ended up hosing the Pop desktop install. You can easily do some finger-pointing on where the real blame lies here from Pop not ensuring a major package like Steam works correctly before it's pushed to users, to Linus ignoring the (what should be) pretty-clear warning message:

Oh no, please, Linus — don't do it! Linus did it.

The point remains the same regardless, and throwing around pointy-fingers isn't really helpful. It shouldn't have happened, it's as simple as that. Loading up the Pop!_Shop GUI and telling it to install Steam should have been enough. Going by what System76 engineer Jeremy Soller said on Twitter, the cause was this:

"For some reason, an i386 version of a package was never published on Launchpad. Steam being an i386 package, when trying to install it, it had to downgrade that package to the Ubuntu version to resolve dependencies, which removed Pop!_OS packages.".

One thing System76 has now done to prevent such almighty breakage in future, is to patch APT (the package manager), in Pop to prevent users being able to see the "Yes, do as I say!" prompt by default. Unless, they add a special file to actually enable it. On top of that, another System76 developer Jacob Kauffmann mentioned on GitHub their plans to "make further improvements" to the Pop!_Shop GUI so that "users don't have to fall back to the terminal in the first place". Sounds like lessons learned, and hopefully smooth sailing for users in future.

Update: a new version of APT brings in its own improvements for this.

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BielFPs Nov 10, 2021
The fact that the "Linus" guy managed to break his system with a beginner's distro is the icing on this irony cake
TheDantee Nov 10, 2021
Quoting: sudoerMeanwhile everything seemed to work fine for him with Manjaro, which he should have chosen from the get-go, because of newest kernels, newest drivers, for newest hardware, taking a hint from Valve having chosen Arch for the same reason. Someone should tell him that GNU/Linux is NOT M$ Windoze, but a different beast (the car vs. motorcycle analogy) so he should change his approach and mindset, embracing the new (awesome) toy and reading its manual.

Also this is a perfect example of overrated and mindlessly promoted by casual youtubers (because of the same wrong mindset of "everything I used to do with Windoze, I expect to do with GNU/Linux") "user-friendly" vs. user-centric, there used to be a saying with FreeBSD/UNIX that I don't remember quite right but it did go somewhat along the line of "if a system is complex, don't hide it from the user". There's no other shortcut than a) reading fully the downstream distro's wiki b) reading fully the upstream d's wiki to master the OS, in his case, a) read the Manjaro wiki, b) read the Arch wiki, understand, appreciate, constantly improve your skills, be rewarded from the learning (and enlightning) experience.

I can understand the complaints for lack of doing things in UI. Many people just want to do things on their PC without having to know the ins and outs of how it works. I think many people know Linux is not Windows they are just looking for something better than Windows so let them try. However it's not their fault if they don't switch because they didn't understand the OS it's Linux fault for not making it easier to use. Some software alternatives just don't cut it for some of those in professional fields and gaming is still very much a hassle.
phrogpilot73 Nov 10, 2021
I installed Steam on Pop with absolutely no problems. One thing I did notice is that when he installed Steam, you could see the telltale icon on the Pop shop saying that he had updates (which you always do with any new software installation, including Windows). Had he updated Pop first - he would have likely had no problems. I think it's odd that he installed a distro from an ISO and didn't run updates. Being that he's a tech savvy guy, I would have expected that would be the first thing you would want to do - because you're potentially patching known/identified vulnerabilities.
scaine Nov 10, 2021
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Quoting: phrogpilot73Had he updated Pop first - he would have likely had no problems.

Sadly not the case here. They admitted that a weird 32-bit library issue was inadvertently linked to the "default desktop" package which caused the issue. It would likely have been fixed within a day regardless of Linus stumbling into the issue, but the timing was just incredible and it tripped them up in this case.

My only frustration in Linus' approach here was the irony that he'd have had better luck sticking to the "Windows Way" and just downloading Steam from the SteamPowered website. But one of the core messages for new users of Linux is often "don't do that". Certainly true of drivers at least.

The whole thing is frustrating, tbh. Even if lessons were learned for PopOS, the sad fact is that Linus' viewers have already drawn their conclusions about Linux based on his experience. That video will live forever as a spectacular failure of Linux to engage with a "normal" person. Normal is in quotes there, of course, because a) There wasn't much normality about Linus' set up, and b) Linus is an entertainingly stubborn, impatient and highly critical person. Anyone trying Linux in good faith and with reasonable expectation would have a better experience.
damarrin Nov 10, 2021
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The failing here I feel was in the Pop Shop (which I dislike, mainly for its handling of updates, but that is neither here nor there). When it failed to install the package, it should have come up with a better message that would indicate the problem (Steam package is broken) and propose to him to file a bug.

As the error was meaningless, he turned to the command line, which was not the thing he should have been encouraged to do.
AussieEevee Nov 10, 2021
I think I actually cried when Linus skipped the warning on the apt screen. It's not his fault. I place all of the blame on the broken package. But it was literally a case of "That should not have happened." (In Captain Picard's voice. Thumbs up to anyone that gets the quote)
Perkeleen_Vittupää Nov 10, 2021
Hmm maybe Steam should be just pre-installed on Pop!_OS
berarma Nov 10, 2021
This is a distraction move. Where's the news about the Steam package being fixed and the reason it was published without being tested? Because that's the real issue.
Linuxwarper Nov 10, 2021
I find it annoying how people think the issue is terminal and also forget why alot of things are terminal based. Making GUI is additional work and what Linus did is not fault of the terminal by itself, it's a UI and information issue. Linus experienced a issue then all of sudden everyone are wise about "We need more user friendliness!". First of all, installing Steam from software store should have been possible. That's something that needs to be there.

But when you go and use terminal, what led Linus to make the mistake is also a UI issue. Let me illustrate.

Following packages will be uninstalled:
Pop-os desktop
You are about to do something potentially harmful. To Continue please type "Yes, do as I say"

Following packages will be uninstalled:
Pop-os desktop
You are about to do something potentially harmful. Before continuing with uninstalling packages write down the command "sudo apt install Pop-os desktop", in the event you want to reverse the action
To Continue with uninstalling please type "Yes, do as I say"

Linux will continue to be largely dependt on terminal, because as I said UI takes more time to develop and there is no simple switch you can press where GUIs appear everywhere for everything. Making terminal more understandable and safer for beginners is more realistic.

Last edited by Linuxwarper on 10 November 2021 at 3:11 pm UTC
Mohandevir Nov 10, 2021
It's just sad... Bad timing. The problem is solved, I read? Took what? Couple of hours to get a fix? How much time would have been required, on Windows, to get a fix for a similar issue? Next tuesday patch? Next month? I must admit that I never witnessed a Windows update bricking a PC or generate a BSOD, either...

But it's Linux, it doesn't have that margin. It must be nothing less than perfect, accross the board, on all distributions simultaneously, to convince mainstream users.

Last edited by Mohandevir on 10 November 2021 at 3:10 pm UTC
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