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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.

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154 comments
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The issue Linus had with Steam on Pop is why I always use the deb from the Steam website.

Good to see System76 learn from it though
Eike 10 Nov
Quoting: LibertyPaulMThe issue Linus had with Steam on Pop is why I always use the deb from the Steam website.

Good to see System76 learn from it though

I honestly got no idea how the package of the distribution makers could be worse than the one that doesn't know anything about your distribution.
Corben 10 Nov
To be fair... what would have happened if Linus did not enter "Yes, do as I say!"?
He still would not have been able to install Steam, he wanted Steam, he would have tried it again, ending with the same result: Steam not being installed. Yeah, this was of course the worst thing that could happen to a new Linux user. And he probably would still have switched to a different distro, as he wouldn't have known what's wrong. I guess this was even the faster way. Yeah, I know this was a fluke, a temporary issue, already fixed and a really bad timing for this to happen.

Let's just hope that this didn't give too many viewers the creep, so they'd never want to touch Linux at all.

On a side node, there is even another thing with apt going on right now: https://github.com/linux-surface/linux-surface/issues/625
sudoer 10 Nov
Meanwhile 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 enlightening) experience.


Last edited by sudoer on 10 November 2021 at 8:28 pm UTC
It's easy to be disappointed by the first episode of this series and view it as a disaster.

But I don't feel that way about it.

In software, when a bug is encountered, what do the developers ask for when you report the bug?

"Send us a log file."

What Linus created, was a log file of a bug. Not a regular software bug, but a "UX bug".

And look, a positive change has already resulted which will benefit future new users of Pop!_OS. Other distros would be smart to also notice this issue and address it as well, so they don't fall victim to the same issue.

QuoteOne 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.

As for 'blame'. In general, when it comes to UX, my rule is:

"If the user doesn't believe they did anything wrong, then the UX is to blame."

In general, it should simply not be that easy for a new user to brick an install like that. The fact Linus was able to stumble in just 15 minutes into a sequence of events that ended with basically uninstalling his DE, is in my opinion, a UX design failing.

It's easy to say, "But the warning was right there on screen".. Yeah sure, it was, hidden amongst a bunch of other technical jargon. Who in their right mind would assume installing Steam has the potential to uninstall a DE?

This was a UX issue, and it's being addressed. That's a positive change, I'm glad Linus brought this to the Pop!_OS team's attention so they can address it. Hopefully more positive changes will result from the rest of the series.


Last edited by gradyvuckovic on 10 November 2021 at 12:20 pm UTC
kalin 10 Nov
I tried popos and it was the same garbage as ubuntu. After some update the system got broken. From my experience manjaro is far better choice then anything Debian based. Turd is a turd no matter how much chocolate topping you put on
mirv 10 Nov
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On the one hand, making it easier to not remove critical packages is a good thing. That's a lesson to take on board, and good to see Pop!_OS doing that.
On the other hand, the video did nothing to highlight all the warnings that what was about to happen could damage the system, plenty of opportunities were provided to back out, and an admin password I'm sure needed to be entered (checking....and yes). From the command line. That's up there with "here's a random .exe from an email, just open it" on Windows. Don't unless you know what you're doing - and that's something that really should've been given more emphasis in the video rather than saying how terrible everything is.

I'm not impressed with that level of vlogging from LTT, but I am glad of improvements in such things for new users.
Arehandoro 10 Nov
Quoting: kalinI tried popos and it was the same garbage as ubuntu. After some update the system got broken. From my experience manjaro is far better choice then anything Debian based. Turd is a turd no matter how much chocolate topping you put on

Ubuntu/Pop_OS != Debian and Ubuntu/Pop_OS < Debian

But I get your point.
Arehandoro 10 Nov
Based on recent blog posts, accusations, etc, I wonder if Pop_OS will eventually try to get this patch merged upstream.
scaine 10 Nov
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Quoting: kalinI tried popos and it was the same garbage as ubuntu. After some update the system got broken. From my experience manjaro is far better choice then anything Debian based. Turd is a turd no matter how much chocolate topping you put on

This kind of comment is unhelpful and, frankly, deluded. I've said it before - it's insanely frustrating to see such a small niche shitting on another niche just to get one over on the other 'side'. Grow up.
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