Ubuntu Linux, Day 3: Dude, Where's My iTunes?

30 Days With Ubuntu Linux: Day 3

OK, so Ubuntu Linux is all installed and ready to go. Now what?

Much of the feedback that I received from yesterday's post focused on my choice to go with the Wubi install option. Ubuntu purists seem to feel that I am not giving the OS a fair chance if I don't run it natively rather than on top of Windows.

I understand the sentiment, and I understand that there is a performance hit that comes with running under Wubi as opposed to completely standalone. I will make you a deal, though-I won't let any perceived performance issues affect my opinion of Ubuntu. If anything else comes up that I complain about that you feel is a result of my decision to use the Wubi installation, feel free to let me know.

Ubuntu Linux
There are some hurdles to cross before I can immerse myself in Ubuntu Linux.
Illustration: Chip Taylor
I have also received a fair amount of feedback from readers challenging my assertion that this month might not be as immersive as 30 Days With Google Docs was because I am only trying to compare the OS itself, and after a month with Google Docs I am anxious to get back to using Microsoft Office. Fair enough. Some have recommended using CrossOver to run Office from within Ubuntu-so I will take a look at that, but overall I will do my best to literally switch platforms and immerse myself in Ubuntu Linux. If there comes a point where it gets in the way of my productivity, though-all bets are off. I have to pay the bills, so getting work done is priority one.

Just FYI--this post was written split between the two. I used Libre Writer to do most of it, while I worked in Ubuntu and captured screenshots. It seems like a capable enough word processor at first glance. We can dig into that more another day. But, I don't yet have a solution in place in Ubuntu that lets me connect with the PCWorld VPN, so I had to switch back to Windows to finish and post this. We'll try and tackle the VPN issue someday soon and we'll see how that goes.

Ubuntu communicates with my iPhone at least enough to detect the photos.
So, let's say for the sake of argument that I'm going to spend 24/7 in Ubuntu during the 30 Days project. I have to consider very important things like "how will I keep my iPhone and iPad synced up?" I don't think I've ever made it any sort of secret that I abhor iTunes, and I consider it an abomination as far as Apple is concerned. The interface sucks. The software freezes regularly. But, it's a necessary evil that comes with the territory for using iOS devices.

When I boot into Ubuntu it does automatically detect my iPhone. It pops up message boxes letting me know that I have attached a device containing photos and music, and asking which application to open the content with. I just close the boxes, and there my iPhone sits on the Ubuntu desktop among the other removable storage drives. But, that doesn't help me sync it, so I still need iTunes.

I went to my trusty friend Google to search for an answer. On the one hand, there seems to be an abundant supply of help and how-to articles for Linux in general, and Ubuntu specifically. Unfortunately, much of that help is dated and it is hard--especially for a Linux novice--to tell that the information is no longer valid, which just adds extra effort and frustration to the process.

I had to dig to find a way, but I got WINE installed in Ubuntu Linux.
Case in point: Google directed me to a how-to article from eHow.com. That article starts off with steps about opening the Terminal command line interface in Ubuntu and using some archaic "sudo blah-blah-blah" command to download a program called WINE that lets you run Windows software from within Ubuntu. I tried to follow the instructions, but I was rejected. I assume it is because the instructions were version-specific, and since the version is no longer correct the instructions are useless. But, I could be wrong.

I did another search just for installing WINE in Ubuntu and found some simpler instructions for adding a download repository to the Ubuntu Software Center. Then, I just clicked a link and WINE downloaded and installed. Much simpler.

With WINE installed, I jumped back to the eHow.com instructions and resumed the quest for iTunes. I went to the link provided in the eHow.com instructions to download version 7.2 of iTunes--the most current version of iTunes that will work with Ubuntu according to the instructions. I installed it in WINE, but I got some error message at the end of the installation, and iTunes wouldn't run. It gave me an error about missing files.

Throwing caution to the wind, I just opened Firefox and went to iTunes.com and downloaded the current version. I installed it in WINE, and it worked...mostly. Kind of.

Using WINE, I was able to install iTunes in Ubuntu Linux.
Each time I start iTunes, I get some error message about something missing from the Registry, but after I click OK iTunes opens up as it should. iTunes pulled in my music files from the designated folder and seems to work at face value. However, when I play a song it works fine for about two minutes and then just stops. No more music. Nothing. I have to shut down iTunes and restart it so I can listen to two minutes of music again.

Then, there is the issue of iTunes not detecting my iPhone. So, I still can't sync, and if I can't sync the iPhone and iPad, I don't need iTunes at all because I could just use the Banshee music player utility that came by default with Ubuntu. I'll bet it can even play a whole song. Maybe even an album or two.

And, here we are. Despite Apple's claims that the iPad is the harbinger of the "post-PC" era, it still requires a PC (as does the iPhone) to sync and update. But, apparently, in the world of Apple, Linux does not qualify as a "PC". So, even if I dedicate myself to living in Ubuntu for the next 30 days, I would still need to boot back into Windows periodically to sync my iOS devices.

I hate iTunes, but this experience has given me new appreciation for working with iTunes in Windows. See, here's the thing--in Windows I just install the software, and then it works (except for the part where I frequently have to use the Task Manager to forcibly shut it down when it freezes up).

I am open to suggestion Linux gurus. One thing I have determined about Linux is that there always seems to be a way. Given enough duct tape, chewing gum, and perspiration, there is a way to make it work. I guess my question, though, would be "why?" Why should we expect someone who just wants to use a computer to jump through hoops and bend over backwards just to make a simple program work when a much simpler alternative exists?

Read the last "30 Days" Series: 30 Days with Google Docs

Day 2: Wow--That Was Really Easy

Day 4: Tweaking the Look and Layout of Ubuntu Linux

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