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The New Other "Blog" of Bryan Lee and Jean Higaki

Never Mind the Hidden Web, and Ubuntu Pain

I wrote a short entry a few weeks ago about the "Hidden Web". How there was this whole secret web that Google would not show you.

Well, never mind.

There may well be a hidden web, by my blog has finally been discovered by Google. It took a couple of months. Perhaps not surprisingly another blog of mine on blogspot appeared in the search results much more quickly.

My blog is still not in Bing's search results, but somehow that doesn't seem quite as exciting.

And now onto the second topic for today: Ubuntu.

I've seen some people recently claiming how Ubuntu is ready to be used by non-techies, and how it's just as easy to use as Windows or a Mac, and how you should install it on grandpa's system right away.

To those people, I say ... HA!

Now I like Ubuntu just fine - I use it as a web server environment - but I never felt it was quite ready for the general public.

I am currently in the middle of trying to upgrade my Ubuntu, and now I know for sure Ubuntu is not ready for the masses.

You see, several years ago I unstalled Ubuntu. Intrepid Ibex (8.10) was the version. I just grabbed the most recent stable release. Then a little while ago, I noticed some installations were not working. It was then I first learned about the "LTS" concept. You see, most Ubuntu releases are not supported for very long, about two years I think. And every two years, they release a "Long Term Support" release.

So I thought, "Ok, fine, I'll upgrade when the next LTS release comes around." Now, Precise Pangolin (12.04) has just been released, so I started looking into upgrades. And then I discovered - you can't upgrade from a version that is several releases old! In fact, from what I'm reading, it appears you can only upgrade to the next release, except LTS releases can upgrade to the next LTS release. Which means I would have to upgrade from 8.10 to 9.04, then to 9.10, then 10.04 LTS, and then finally to 12.04 LTS.

Not only that but another page did a survey and found that only about 26% of respondents upgraded their Ubuntu with no problems, and about a third suffered a "catastrophic failure".

Well, I'm partway through my upgrade marathon now. It hasn't been completely smooth, but fortunately I haven't run into any catastrophic failures either.

Now one of the original motivations for upgrading my Ubuntu to begin with happened about a year ago when I realized I was unable to install Firefox version 4 on my Intrepid Ibex system. This was probably because it was too old - a whopping three years at the time. For all the flack Microsoft got for not supporting Windows XP with IE9, XP is about 10 years old. And so now I have to run through this multiple upgrade gauntlet. Many people say it's better to just to start with a clean install of a newer version of Ubuntu, but I'm too worried about losing some part of my state on the machine, since it's functioning as a web server.

For the novice user, this situation would be a nightmare. Could you imagine if your mother-in-law ended up in this situation? "Ah, well, you see Mom you didn't install the LTS release. So now you need to go into your /etc/apt/sources.list file and change 'archive' to 'old-releases'. Don't forget to sudo! And then modify your /var/lib/update-manager/meta-release file as well."

And this is something that Windows and Mac handle easily. I can upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 without having to first install Vista, and for all the griping about the Windows installation process, it usually works.

I would not consider for the briefest second putting a non-programmer onto Ubuntu - it would most likely mean hours of customer support for me.

The Ubuntu website says Ubuntu is 'super-fast, easy to use, and free'. Well it is free, and it seems maybe slightly faster than Windows on my dual-boot machine. But "easy to use" - that is just a joke. It then says "you can do all the things you can do with other operating systems." All the things, that is, except for upgrade from a version you installed a couple years ago, unless you have many hours to spare, plus a Ph.D. in computer science.

And it doesn't have to be this way.

How hard would it be for Ubuntu itself to look at 'old-releases' instead of 'archive' once a system gets too old? And make it so that even if support has ended for a version, at least you can still upgrade to a newer version! And have a big warning pop up when a version is nearing end-of-life. And for that matter, strongly recommend only installing the LTS releases to begin with on their website if it's too difficult for them to support upgrading across multiple versions.

If they really want to bring Ubuntu to the masses, and I really hope they do, it's not hard to find some things to start fixing. Go hire some user interface experts. Not even experts - amateurs, maybe just actual users! I'm sure they can find a litany of huge ease-of-use problems that need improvement. I'm getting scared that MS might screw up the desktop experience of Windows 8. And I really don't want to use a Mac. A Linux system would be an alternative, but not if I have to put up with this sort of crap. Perhaps another distro, like Mint, solves some of these problems?

The Hidden Web

I wrote a short entry a few weeks ago about my recent experiences with my Kindle Fire, and I put it onto my Tripod blog. Yet you will probably never read it. In fact, you probably won't even be able to find it using Google, even if you grab entire phrases and put them into Google's search box.

You see, for some reason, Google and the other search engines seem to be steadfastly refusing to index that blog. I'm not sure why - I'm guessing it has something to do with how the Tripod blog works, since I haven't done anything unusual besides that. Perhaps they do something that violates Google's acceptable practices. (And sorry about all the annoying pop-ups here - really, Tripod?) And so I've started this new "blog" as an experiment to see whether this page gets indexed more readily.

But that's not really the most interesting aspect of all of this. It occurred to me that my Tripod blog has actual, legitimate content that someone might want to read. It may not be Pulitzer-Prize-winning content, but I'm sure someone out there just might be interested in what I wrote.

There are only two real entries so far: one about my experiences with the Kindle Fire - what I like and what I found lacking and how this is not remotely a "post-PC era", the second about my latest project called Your Coconut, a website to hold and organize information for a small class or family reunion or other gathering. You can have information about events & activites, lodging, flights, and other miscellaneous information, and you can invite guests via email and they can click on a link in the email to view and/or contribute to the information.

But I digress. No one will find those two entries even if they were interested. In fact, if someone else has written something similar, I would be interested in finding it. And yet ... I might not be able to.

And so I started thinking - what if there is a hidden web out there? A web that is useful and relevant, and yet is almost impossible to find. The vast majority of us use Google search, and the other major search engines seem to be using similar techniques. There could be quite a few interesting pages out there that simply can't be found.

And this isn't the first time it has happened either. I had created a forum earlier (not this new Bryanilee forum on Lefora with a thread on favorite Kindle Fire apps) and using Google I was looking for an entry I had written there. I couldn't find it. I thought, "Uh oh, is the forum broken? Did some data get lost?" But no, if I went to the forum, I could find the entry I was looking for by clicking on links. And then I redid the search, again taking phrases verbatim for the post - it still did not come up in the search results.

And so, although I was looking for something I myself had written, here was a case of someone trying to legitimately find something using Google and not being able to, despite it being there. I chalked it up to some glitch, and indeed after I added a new comment to that thread, it re-appeared in Google's search results. But now, it seems it is not just a tiny glitch.

One weird thing is that there is some random sub-page of the Tripod blog that is indexed by Google. I'm not sure why, in fact, I'm not even sure how to get to that page, or how Google found it. It doesn't really have any useful content, yet if you search for "Bryan Lee Jean Higaki Blog" - that page shows up in the results.

All of this is making me wonder - how much of the web is hidden like this? What's out there? Of course, there's probably a lot of spam, malicious sites, and useless link-farm type sites, but I'll bet there's also quite a bit good, useful content as well.

I've even thought about trying to create a search engine to find the unfindable, the useful and interesting sites that Google for some reason doesn't let you see.

Do you know of sites out there that you find useful and interesting, but don't show up on Google for some reason?

Posted by bryan on 3/23/2012, 11:17am

Comments - oh, sorry, since this is not a real blog you'll have to post comments on the Tripod blog. But good luck finding it!

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