Is there any valid reason to use Automatix?

By | 2007/01/30

I have never used Automatix and, honestly, I’ve never seen any reason to. I was recently at an install fest and some of the users were asking about it. I didn’t have anything to tell them so I’m putting it out to the rest of you. Is there really any valid reason to use Automatix over the officially supported repositories?

Anything that I’ve read basically outlines that Automatix is unsupported and I don’t think I know anyone that actually uses it.  I’ve seen it in action once and the packages I saw listed were the same that the ‘verse already includes.

From what I understand it makes some package installation a little more point and click. Is Synaptic / Adept really that hard? Personally I prefer actually knowing how to use my system.. but that’s just me.

31 thoughts on “Is there any valid reason to use Automatix?

  1. claydoh

    For the most part, there isn’t really much of a need for it imo. You have to edit your sources.list to install it, so why not enable all the official repos and get 95% of what Automatix does.

    What makes Synaptic/Adept difficult is not knowing off hand what packages you need to install. Multimedia support packages come to mind. Unless you have found the wiki page with the info, it is rather hard to decipher what you need to install.

  2. Chris

    It’s not used by most to install software that is in Ubuntu’s repos. It used to install software that is not, or can not be in there.

    For example, Google Earth, Skype, beta versions of software not yet in the repos and FasterFox (or what ever it is). It provides an easy way to install all the codes, Firefox plugins, and things like that.

    It lets you get your system loaded with that kind of software in minutes.

  3. luptinpitman

    Automatix is a great tool to help first timers get their machine up and running and start evaluating the OS instead of being forced to understand linux repositories and installation techniques from the ground up. Eventually those that like the platform learn that Automatix is unnecessary and move away from it due to redundancy but that doesn’t make Automatix any less useful.

    I don’t understand why so many people seem to have such hatred or disgust for a program that HELPS draw people into your environment.

    And this comment: “Personally I prefer actually knowing how to use my system.. but that’s just me.” Seems completely unnecessary and rude to those of us who use Automatix as a means to an end.

  4. Kirrus

    Just adding to what people have said above, automatix installs stuff that most users would want. (Mp3 support, for example).

    On top of that, have you tried using the restricted formats page on the wiki for edgy recently? (Past couple of days)

    There seems to be nothing there anymore about how to install restricted formats for Edgy users. I’m not running Dapper or Breezy, so they’re useless to me. 🙁

  5. Matt

    I think it used to have a valid purpose, when the codecs in the repos either didn’t exist, or simply didn’t work well enough, or for java, before it was in the repos.
    I think now its useless. with things like the EasyCodecInstall spec getting done, users should simply have to try to play something, and boom, it will install whats needed.

    luptinpitman: the reason people don’t like it is beacause every time there is a new Ubuntu release, a huge swarm of people complain that it broke their system. more often than not, its because they have installed/used automatix. since it fetches from places other than the repos, the upgrade system doesn’t know about any of the things it did to the system, and things break. any 3rd party repo or tools like this (easybuntu is another one) can break an upgrade.

    I used to use 3rd party repos for things. Now, everything I need exists in the offical ones. anything else I’ll build myself to keep my system clean, at least clean from anyone other than myself.

  6. Stephen Hall

    The only problem I see with Synaptic is the overwhelming number of packages, the majority of which are “support” packages. If there was a way of making the “primary” packages, such as Firefox, Thunderbird, Gimp, etc, stand out, perhaps even through a completely separate menu, then it would be much less daunting.

  7. Josh

    Like Chris said, Automatix isn’t used for the same reasons that Synaptic is, so I don’t think a comparison between Automatix and Synaptic/Adept is really accurate.

    And I’ve never had to edit anything to install Automatix. Automatix is the first thing I use on any new Ubuntu installation because it offers quick access to all of the codecs (FOSS and proprietary) and programs that I need to get my machine up and running without jumping through a lot of hoops.

  8. Tristan Rhodes

    Automatix was created to fill an important need in Ubuntu. Users should not have to jump through hoops just to view flash/java websites, watch movies, or listen to music.

    However, each version Ubuntu has made these things easier. In Fiesty, most things will be installed by default or enabled when the user needs them. Read my blog to hear more of my thoughts on this issue.

    The biggest problem with Automatix is the when people try to upgrade to new versions of Ubuntu. This is the reason I NEVER install Automatix on my Ubuntu systems.

  9. SFA_AOK

    It takes away some of the pain of installing – and setting up – apps that people find useful and want to have on their systems. They *could* do it themselves, installing them one at a time, tinkering with them to set them up or they can just check some boxes, leave it while it runs and come back a little while later to a system that has all the bits and pieces they want installed.

    Let’s not forget how such projects come about – people got tired of testing future releases and having to install a bunch of stuff every time they installed a new build. So someone tried to automate things, much like many of us have used a script to do a repetitive task for us.

    I understand the problems it causes and I can understand and sympathise with the arguments against its use. But at the end of the day it makes something a lot of people do very easy.

    I will add that I’ve not tried manually installing the bits and pieces Automatix does automatically recently so maybe I’m just out of date on how fiddly some of these things are…

  10. Bergcube

    Automatix has seriously munged my systems a couple of times. So I personally detest it.

    A valid reason to use it would be in order to get nitty-gritty hands-on doing system recovery.

  11. Stoffe

    I’ve tried it a couple of times. It breaks systems, especially it breaks dist-upgrades completely if you don’t know how to restore your system. Most people on IRC and forums nowadays refuse to help with systems hosed by Automatix, because it’s just too much trouble.

    If you don’t mind wiping and reinstalling it may work for you.

    It looks as if most things it does will be completely redundant with the stuff coming in Feisty.

  12. Kris Marsh

    For those of you that are complaining about how Synaptic lists cryptic names, click the top-left menu. Applications->Add/Remove…

    For newbies, this is really what we should be recommending – not Synaptic.

    Multimedia/Restricted formats will be installed with ease in Feisty, with

    I’m not denying that work could be done to improve the overall smoothness of downloading and installing an application from the web, but Automatix is not answer, based on the amount of broken systems it creates, and endless problems it causes for people when they attempt to update their distro.

  13. scottjl

    i use it on every new ubuntu (6.06 and 6.10) system i install. yes, you can manually edit your repositories and select the packages and install them. but who wants to go through and click on 20 different codecs when one click in automatix will do the same thing?

    automatix is meant to be run once really, after a fresh system install. after that go back to synaptic, all the packages will update through there.

  14. AKD

    I’ve never used Automatix, but I have used EasyUbuntu. It’s a time saver. Its a quick method to get the codecs and apps I need. There is nothing wrong with quick and easy.

  15. liu

    I like automatix. Like scottjl said, y click many times when one click in automatix will do the same thing. Thx to automatix i dont need to loose my time searching for codecs.

  16. Hari Sundararajan

    And this comment: “Personally I prefer actually knowing how to use my system.. but that’s just me.” Seems completely unnecessary and rude to those of us who use Automatix as a means to an end.

    I would think that’s a “feature” of all Ubuntu developers, being rude. Since right now Ubuntu is the top distribution on Distrowatch, the Ubuntu devs begin to think they are Gods.

    Ubuntu will never support something like Automatix, because at the heart of the Ubuntu developers, they still want to do everything over the command line and don’t want users to be productive in a short while.

  17. sharms


    We want to make Ubuntu easy, but making Ubuntu easy isn’t always legal. Your comment is way off base. We have no will to keep you on the command line.

  18. Spanky

    Hello! TIME (and politics).

    That’s why.

    If Kubuntu alone can solve these problems then it should do so.

  19. bodzasfanta

    I use EasyUbuntu. It’s very useful to install the video codecs. Automatix is rubbish, you can find everything in Synaptic.

  20. Tyler, a newbie

    Hi, I read Ubuntu planet pretty regularly, and I just wanted you to know that if it was not for automatix I would not be using Ubuntu right now. Until the newest release of feisty fawn, there was no simple way to get audio/video/flash animations to “just work” as far as I could tell. I knew immediately that I was dealing with an OS superior to the one I was currently using, but there was no way for somebody who had never used Linux to make it work right away. I know how to install all of the packages on my own now, but I didn’t then.

    Thank you very much for all your hard work on my favorite operating system.

  21. GliderMike

    I have used Linux long enough to easily be able to install everything Automatix does. The key though is that I don’t WANT to. Don’t underestimate Automatix. It is a large part of what makes Ubuntu so great. Nobody wants to spend hours setting up codecs, media players, MP3 support, etc. That’s exactly the kind of stuff people want to just work. If you want greater adoption, than support this kind of great work…don’t shun it. Feel free to lay out an alternative of installing it all manually. Just understand that the MAINSTREAM user does not want to do that. I am not a MAINSTREAM user. I still have a lot to learn but I would consider myself am an advanced user. I still would prefer to let it be “automatic(x)” and get on with my business.

    You have to support great helpful items such as this if you ever want desktop Linux to be adopted enough so that you won’t have to lobby for hardware drivers and key software ports.

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, better yet, integrate it into the distro itself.

  22. Tony Yarusso

    My knowledge of Automatix comes from watching very patient people try to help new users with disaster recovery when it makes things go terribly wrong, so I would be inclined to stay far, far away.

  23. Arpad Gered

    Most of Automatix’ merits and flaws have already been mentioned. Also, that Feisty will have a lot of new features that renders Automatix partially obsolete.

    What has been omitted is, that these features are introduced because of apps like Automatix, EasyUbuntu etc.

    Firstly, those apps and their wide use showed, that their features were much wanted (the previous posts list most reasons why).

    Secondly, those apps caused problems, especially when upgrading, so that supported solutions had to be created. Where there’s light, there’s always shadow, but in the end we all will benefit. So if Automatix and Co have no other merits, then at least they brought us supported apps … and lots of users.

    Now some remarks to Automatix itself: It has always been contoversial. Originally released under some special license, it was forked (the forks are dead, as far as I know), later it switched to GPL. Also it employed a lot of external repositories and was considered one big nasty hack.

    Version 2.0 has been completely rewritten and it is no longer developed by a single person, arnieboy, but a team (the website lists two developers, there were more, last time I checked). Also Automatix no longer adds external repositories, only multiverse and universe. Apps not included in those repositories are downloaded as debs.

    I’ve used Automatix since my very first Ubuntu, Hoary, which I then upgraded till Dapper. Edgy was my first fresh install. I’m one of the lucky ones, since I’ve never encountered any problems I couldn’t fix and none I definitely know Automatix caused.

  24. Bruce Cowan

    AFAIK, Automatix installs stuff that could already could be installed with aptitude.

    Media support is as easy as sudo aptitude install gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad-multiverse gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse

    Which is easier, copying and pasting the above into a terminal, or downloading a package off a website, installing it, running it, ticking some boxes, and then buggering up your machine in the sources.list replacement.

    I used Automatix once a long time ago, it replaced my sources.list (with gb mirror) with its us mirror. Why does it expect everyone is in the US?

  25. luptinpitman

    I seems strange to me that such an awesome and useful site such as this one could post such an elitist and snobbish question about the merits of an app that was created to ease us m$ zombies into the wonderfulness that is Linux in general and Ubuntu specifically. Just kind of hit me funny and strangely upset me.

    Everyone seems to pretty much understand that Automatix and EasyUbunut are crutches and can cause problems, though the overwhelming majority opinion has been that they are useful and necessary “evils”.

    I was wondering if you found your answer to the question posed?

    Side note: awesome hookup on this one 🙂

  26. Ubuntu Tutorials

    I want to thank everyone for the flood in responses. I actually learned a lot about Automatix and EasyUbuntu that I hadn’t previously known.

    I did not intend to be offensive, although I see now how I came across that way. The post was mainly bourne of curiosity & that has been appeased at this point.

    I think the overall is that these programs can be helpful, and I think the authors had the right intent in creating them. Future Ubuntu improvements are being made based on the foundation these laid so everyone wins. Thank You.

  27. Rich

    It’s this very attitude that actually turns many people off to Linux in general. People are used to the Microsoft and Apple way of doing things, with detailed help files and wizards and point-and-click simplicity. I’m not saying that Automatix is a good idea simply because it makes things more Windows-like, but it does make things easier. Would a computer newbie know which package to choose among Synaptic’s 900,000 packages in order to enable DVD playback? I doubt it… would they even know what “deCSS” is? Doubt it. Automatix helps narrow down the multitude of choices into a simple menu that people can understand. Ubuntu has a similar system, called “Add/Remove Programs” I believe, but why on earth does it not have the things we find in Automatix? Is it so wrong to want a simple one-click install of Wine or Picasa? If Linux is ever going to be used in place of Windows or OSX, it’s going to have to be easier to use… Ubuntu’s easily the easiest to use, but it still has a long way to go, and if key players in the Linux community can’t see the value of something like Automatix and just shun it because it’s not all FOSS, then Linux will never reach its true potential.

  28. Josh

    GliderMike is right on. Not to mention Automatix offers some useful scripts that I don’t want to spend time implementing on my own (‘edit as root’, etc). Until these features are fully implemented, I will continue to use and love Automatix. It’s never hosed any of my systems and I’ve never had problems with it.

  29. Reader X

    There’s nothing rude about commenting on a desire to understand one’s system. It would have been rude if it were claimed “only lazy idiots need Automatix because they’re too dumb and apathetic to learn how easy Ubuntu is already.” But that’s not what was said. The author simply said they no longer had a need for Automatix because they preferred to learn the system as it was meant to be used.

    I’m also at that stage. I want to remove Automatix because I find it completely unnecessary for my usage, as well.

    I installed it during my first month on Ubuntu because I read a number of testimonials saying how easy it made things. Fact is, I don’t remember having used it because it turned out there wasn’t anything difficult about Ubuntu (for me).

    Now, I’m just trying to make sure Automatix is off my computer because Ubuntu does not recommend it due to many supposed conflicts whereby Automatix can possibly hurt your Ubuntu installation. A quick search on Google to find methods to make certain Automatix is no longer on my PC because it seems to be gone, but I just wasn’t sure if apt-get remove automatix was enough to purge it off Edgy or not, before I upgrade to Feisty. But that neurotically defensive overreaction of “completely unnecessary and rude” caught my eye and I wanted to respond to it: calm down. If you see value in Automatix, use it. If you don’t, then avoid/remove it in order to forestall any potential conflicts.

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