How do you solve a problem like Linux?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Linux. My server at home runs DSM, the Synology version of Linux. My routers run Linux. And I’ve got Ubuntu installed as the only OS on my Thinkpad and as one of the three OSs on my Mac Pro. I have high hopes that one day, and hopefully soon, Linux will present a viable alternative to Mac OS X for general purpose use – because Microsoft certainly doesn’t seem to be making any effort to with Windows.

That day is not now though, and the main problem isn’t actually with Linux itself. It’s with the support available. Linux itself is part of the problem, of course – it requires a little too much fiddling around and customisation for it to be recommendable to granny, even with good support. With good support though, it should be a viable OS for the average family, and not just those with tech savvy dads like me.

AskUbuntu looked like a good start. It looks, in fact, like Canonical has woken up to the support problem and copied Apple’s own support forum. First impressions aren’t good though. Apple has arranged its support community into categories, so it’s very easy to drill down and find a solution to your problem, if one exists, before you even think about how you might phrase your question. However, AskUbuntu is a mess and the success rate isn’t anywhere as high as the Apple community, and now I know why.

I asked the following question (you can see the original trail here)

I’m trying to get uinput to work so that I can remote control Myth with a Sony PS3 remote control. The remote pairs okay – but none of the buttons on it work.
I’ve added uinput to /etc/modules – but that hasn’t made any difference. I’ve also tried launching uinput manually by entering ‘sudo modprobe uinput’. No errors are reported when I do that – but when I then enter ‘lsmod | grep uinput’, nothing gets returned.
I’m perplexed. Various forums suggest that uinput is broken on Ubuntu – but surely that isn’t the case, is it? I’m running 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot.

No answers were forthcoming. I dug deeper. I searched, I grafted and I put far more time into finding the answer than the average time-strapped father would be able to. The answer, it turned out, was:

Okay, part of the the reason is that uinput is compiled into the kernel – so of course lsmod won’t show anything! On the other hand though, this still doesn’t explain why key presses from the remote control aren’t being detected. If I learn anything new I’ll be sure to pass it on.

And it turns out that my response was a bad move on my part. That reply got me banned from AskUbuntu. It seems that I was too conversational. Given the number of times that people have run into this wall on Linux though, you think that they’d be glad of a little clarity. It’s a real bummer for anyone trying to get their Sony PS3 remote control working with Ubuntu because I now have the entire answer – I hoped to post in AskUbuntu, to help others, but now I can’t.

Apple’s discussions site never throws up gremlins like this. It’s well moderated, and users and moderators alike bend over backwards to help. I don’t know what you’d have to do to get banned, but I think you’d have to be a pretty committed serial offender – otherwise you’ll only get your trollsomenesses deleted, which is fair enough.

The moral of the story is keep an eye on Linux – it will be excellent one day, but if your granny needs a computer now then there’s only one sensible choice – and you can get one here.

And if you want to know how I solved this problem then keep any eye on this site. All will be revealed.

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