2010-10-26

General Disillusionment with Ubuntu

There's always been murmurs of discontent in the Linux community with Canonical, the company that sponsors and manages Ubuntu. Before, I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about; it was the easy-to-use distribution and it seemed to work quite well. Having watched Ubuntu's development over the last year, I can now see why.
A large part of this is just that users are jealous that Ubuntu, and not their favorite distribution, is seeing so much success. I'm not going to go into this, because it'll likely degenerate into a flame-war.
However, the two more well-supported criticisms regard Canonical's heavy-handedness with regard to Ubuntu as well as its tendency to release new versions just to meet a release date even if the associated programs aren't exactly production-quality.
There are a couple examples of the first occur. Canonical wants to further develop the Ubuntu Software Center into a combination of APT and Apple's iOS App Store in terms of functionality. However, this combination may be going too far, as Canonical is also planning to review all application submissions similar to how Apple does this. That discomforts me as well as a lot of other users, and if this does become a reality, I'm glad to continue Linux Mint (and it may be all the more reason to switch to the Debian-based version, which is something I can say for most everything I will talk about in the rest of this post).
Canonical created a firestorm of controversy before the version 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" release with its decision to move the window control buttons to the left of the titlebar, à la Mac OS X. The criticisms were one (or more) of the following: Ubuntu was becoming a clone of Mac OS X, the control placement was unintuitive, or there was no need to change something that worked (and still works). In one reply in a particular Ubuntu mailing list, Mark Shuttleworth basically dissed the whole community (which is something I covered in a much earlier post).
There are a couple examples of the second issue. In version 9.10 "Karmic Koala", Ubuntu released Empathy (though this could have been to spur further development and refinement) and XSplash, neither of which were production-ready at that time (and XSplash disappeared after version 9.10 anyway). The most recent example of this is Ubuntu's newly announced proposal to replace GNOME Shell/Metacity/Mutter with the Unity interface even on desktops. (Unity was released in version 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" as the new netbook interface, so I'm not really sure how it'll scale up as a DE for a full-blown desktop.) The most common criticisms of this is that Unity has only been included in one release so far, and that it is very slow, buggy, and rigid (as in not customizable especially when compared to standard GNOME). Yet, Canonical is so eager to push ahead with Unity that it wants to make it an environment for the common desktop as well.
I'm not going to say anything about Unity for myself because I haven't tried it (and it will likely not happen). What I will say is that it isn't surprising to me that more and more distributions today are switching from an Ubuntu base to a Debian base, because Debian is entirely community-driven and is usually more stable. That's why my Fresh OS respins are based off of Linux Mint "Debian", that's why #! moved to a Debian base, and that's why Manhattan OS (which was based on Ubuntu not too long ago) moved to a Debian testing base (along with rebranding itself to Jupiter OS). Folks, expect to see a lot more of these types of base shifts happening in the near future, as Ubuntu starts to really chart its own course.

4 comments:

  1. No heavy handedness here, they are just establishing a universal and global brand name for a linux based distro which was the need for a long time. Since you don't like that obviously, you have the choice of not using Ubuntu and using myriads of other Linux based distros, thats the beauty of it all.

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  2. "Canonical wants to further develop the Ubuntu Software Center into a combination of APT and Apple's iOS App Store in terms of functionality. However, this combination may be going too far, as Canonical is also planning to review all application submissions similar to how Apple does this. That discomforts me as well as a lot of other users, and if this does become a reality, I'm glad to continue Linux Mint (and it may be all the more reason to switch to the Debian-based version, which is something I can say for most everything I will talk about in the rest of this post)."

    It kind of depends what's meant by 'review'. Most distros have some kind of 'review' process for software being added to the distribution, but it's the details that are important: what exactly is the review process meant to achieve, how is it implemented, who is in charge of it, how open is it, and so on. I don't know anything about the review process for the Software Center, this is just a general comment.

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  3. If you are allergic to BS, back stabbers, drama queens, head games, liars, two faced fake people, poop stirrers & down right nasty pieces of work, don't use Ubuntu.

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  4. @Arup: I'm not jealous of Canonical's success with Ubuntu, and I let others happily use Ubuntu if it works for them just as I happily use Linux Mint. My issue is more what's in store for future versions of Ubuntu.
    @adamwill: Yes, I understand that almost all distributions have a review process of some sort, but from what I've read, Canonical's review process is unsettlingly similar to Apple's app review process.
    @Anonymous: Can you please explain? I'm curious.
    Thanks for all the comments!

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