As Ubuntu hits its 10th year as a Linux distribution, cause celebre and all-around topic of conversation among the free-software set, Ars Technica takes a look back at what started with release number 4.10, nicknamed Warty Warthog in 2004 and continues today with the version 14.10, named Utopic Unicorn.
At least he’s running it with Xfce.
The post made its way to OMG Ubuntu! where it provoked much discussion.
Much of it was of the “How dare he!” variety, though there were plenty of people who pointed out that the opinions of non-Linux users sampling today’s distros are extremely important.
My constant complaining about the lack of proper suspend/resume with the open-source drivers and the concurrent lack of a packaged closed-source AMD driver in Fedora is the longtime user’s equivalent.
For me, the benefits of Linux on the desktop outweigh the trouble I’ve had over the last year with video and suspend/resume.
But a new user who’s on the fence? It’s just another deal-breaker.
My comment on the OMG Ubuntu post, which is buried in the middle somewhere, said that the Linux desktop is suffering, I think, because the “unity” we had a few years back when many major distros (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Suse) shipped GNOME 2 as their default desktop environment is all but gone. The fragmentation we’re suffering today (Unity/GNOME 3/Cinnamon/Mate/KDE, etc.) isn’t helping with adoption of new users, who are probably more confused than anything.
I also said, I think, that melding some of the innovations of GNOME Shell and Unity — namely the searchability in their respective dashboards — with a more traditional menu-centric desktop would go a long way toward giving OS X and Windows 8 refugees what they want.
Clearly Ubuntu/Canonical is looking toward mobile — and more phone than tablet — as their primary area of interest. And much of what is wrong with the Linux desktop goes beyond Ubuntu into every other distribution using the Linux kernel.
What I didn’t say in my OMG Ubuntu comment was that UEFI isn’t making things any easier. The distributions need to nail that down.
Drivers have gotten better, but in cases like mine they aren’t all the way there. And we’re talking in my case about a year since I bought this laptop. That’s just not right.
I still think that preloaded desktops and laptops from major computer manufacturers represent not just the best way but probably the only way to really gain traction in the market.
And now that desktops and laptops are considered yesterday’s hardware, scuttled in favor of tablets and phones, it would be nice to see someone out there pushing for major vendors to ship Linux-equipped computers with hardware guaranteed to work.
Ubuntu has done this a bit, and I wish they’d do more. Now that they’re all about mobile phones, it would be nice if they could double down on laptop and desktop preloads at Dell and other makers. I don’t see it happening. But it would be nice if it did.
Meanwhile, what can I say to Wil Wheaton? With Linux, you’ve got to love it, and it needs to fit into your life.
For a writer who works on web sites, is learning to code, and deals with a lot of multimedia, it’s a perfect environment. OK, with better high-end video-editing choices it would be perfect, but for me Linux can’t be beat.
Windows and OS X don’t do it for me. The flexibility and freedom of Linux do matter, both as principles and practicalities. I love the Unix/Linux world and won’t be giving it up. It’s the way I prefer to work, a hobby and a passion (or maybe an obsession) all rolled up.
If I was happy running a Macintosh, I’d continue to do that. (I couldn’t because the whole OS X model is one of manipulation and extraction of payment, but that’s another rant for another time.)
For anybody “into” computers and computing, it doesn’t hurt to have a second or third machine on which you test out what Linux and maybe even the BSDs have to offer.
You can’t go wrong with that.
You can knock me over with a feather right this very moment: Mark Shuttleworth announced in his blog that Ubuntu will follow Debian in adopting systemd as its init system, even though Ubuntu itself coded the alternative Upstart:
Upstart has served Ubuntu extremely well – it gave us a great competitive advantage at a time when things became very dynamic in the kernel, it’s been very stable (it is after all the init used in both Ubuntu and RHEL 6 😉 and has set a high standard for Canonical-lead software quality of which I am proud.
Nevertheless, the decision is for systemd, and given that Ubuntu is quite centrally a member of the Debian family, that’s a decision we support. I will ask members of the Ubuntu community to help to implement this decision efficiently, bringing systemd into both Debian and Ubuntu safely and expeditiously.
I thought Ubuntu would fight to the end, but the SABDFL appears happy to offload init-system development to Lennart Poettering and company. A wise move, I think. Canonical’s resources are spread thinly enough that anything not directly related to getting their phone OS to market should be seen as ripe for offloading to other parts of the community.
I’m nowhere near qualified to opine on which init system is better, systemd, Upstart or even the old SysVinit, but it was clear in the debate coursing through the Debian mailing lists over the past month that the licensing of Upstart, which required contributors to sign a Canonical CLA (contributor licensing agreement) that allowed the company to make the code proprietary in the future, was a huge, huge nonstarter for many free software advocates.
So Upstart will ship in the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release, and all derivatives like Kubuntu and Xubuntu, which are due in April. These long-term-support releases will be around for five years, so Upstart isn’t exactly dead yet, though it’s quite the lame duck.
Just to make sure that nothing suits my needs better than what I’m running right now (that being Fedora 19 with Xfce and GNOME), I did an Ubuntu 13.10 installation this week and have spent a bit of time putting the Unity-driven Linux distribution to the test.
The installation was easy. Ubuntu is very good about that. And from the standpoint of actually knowing what’s going on during the install, Ubuntu beats Fedora handily.
While the installation process was easy and smooth, I was unable to boot the finished installation with UEFI Secure Boot on my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop, which has admittedly “difficult” UEFI. I had to turn off Secure Boot to successfully boot Ubuntu 13.10 in EFI mode. Since I’m now having trouble with Fedora 19 and Secure Boot on this same hardware, I’ll chalk that up to an overall Linux kernel problem with secure boot as it stands today. Luckily you can just about always turn off Secure Boot in the computer setup/BIOS, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment is snappier than billed. But for me it’s just a little bit “broken” compared to and Xfce 4.10 and GNOME 3. For instance, as far as I can tell, in Unity you can’t drag windows from one workspace to another. It’s also hard to tell when you’ve minimized a window, though this is also the case in GNOME 3.
In Unity, alt-tab only works on the windows in your current workspace. This is the “standard” way of doing things. It’s what most people want. Xfce does it this way, too. However, GNOME 3’s alt-tab works across all workspaces, which many find jarring due to its being different, but I like it and miss it in both Unity and Xfce.
My main problem with Unity was an inability to get a list of all of my applications. On the suggestion of the shortcut list accessed via the “super” key (a nice feature, by the way), I typed alt-“hold.” That didn’t do anything, so I was in the dark as to which applications were actually installed on the box. That’s bad.
Regarding the Dash, which allows you to search for applications, files, and apparantly anything else on the Internet, it was much more responsive than I thought it would be. But the supplementary “suggestions” that appear whenever I type in anything are ludicrous. I was looking for Gedit, and typing in “Ged” got me Geddy Lee from Rush. Not terribly useful.
I’m not so much creeped out at the Dash taking my keystrokes and turning them into search results as I am annoyed by those results’ very presence. I like searching for what’s on my computer, and I’d like to do this with one or more of my servers. But I’d prefer that web and commerce-related searches be done in a separate interface. Even the same tool — say a “Filthy Lucre Dash” in a separate container would be OK.
The Ubuntu Software Center is also kind of broken. It feels very “alpha,” even though it’s been around a long time. As an example of how it works (or in this case doesn’t), I tried to install Skype but couldn’t do that from the USC. It couldn’t seem to find it. However, once I opened a terminal, I easily installed Skype with apt.
In a hopfully unrelated matter, once I got Skype installed I was unable to log in. The program halted at that step.
Aside from that, the Ubuntu Software Center doesn’t seem as polished as GNOME PackageKit, Synaptic Package Manager or my current favorite package-management utility, Yum Extender.
Still, during my time with Ubuntu 13.10, I did discover a couple of great things going for it:
* It automatically reports crashes as bugs: It reported my failed suspend/resume, and for that I am both grateful and hopeful.
* It also allows for easy installation and removal of proprietary graphics drivers. You can do this in Fedora with a package manager, but it’s easier and more foolproof in Ubuntu.
After a lot of work with Unity, I did install the full GNOME Desktop Environment and found Ubuntu 13.10 to be a very responsive GNOME Shell system. It wasn’t any less responsive than GNOME 3.4.2 in Debian Wheezy. I mean that in a good way.
Overall I liked Ubuntu 13.10 more than I thought I would, though I still prefer Xfce and GNOME Shell — in that order — as desktop environments. I won’t hesitate to try Xubuntu and Ubuntu GNOME in the future.
I’m surprised to say this, but I see Unity as a very simple and efficient desktop environment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not for me, but it at least it’s a fast way to get things done.
While I’m evaluating Ubuntu on the desktop (or more specifically, my laptop desktop), I want to say for the record that I do support Ubuntu’s increasing focus on mobile. We’ve got plenty of Linux distros on the desktop, and I’m glad somebody is putting their chips on mobile since we really need free software OSes in that space.
I leave Ubuntu 13.10 with a sense of excitement about how the distribution will change — and hopefully improve — with the addition of the Mir display server and more development on the Unity desktop environment. I’ll continue to watch it and its many spins, including Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and Lubuntu. I’m not big on KDE, but Kubuntu continues to look strong, and I see the whole Ubuntu ecosystem as way more robust than it may seem given all the criticism heaped on Canonical.
I follow lots of mailing lists and forums, and I see the Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Kubuntu and Ubuntu GNOME projects actively looking for and welcoming new contributors and community members. I find that tremendously inspiring.
The same thing is going on with Ubuntu itself, albeit with a focus on Ubuntu Touch. They want you to code for it.
I’ll admit that this review is colored somewhat by the OggCamp episode of the Ubuntu UK Podcast. Alan Pope (aka Popey), a Canonical employee and frequent apologist for the distro, the company and SABDFL Mark Shuttleworth seemed a little bitter and disillusioned. He appeared tired of being on the defensive. It made me a bit uncomfortable.
Maybe it’s something he ate. However it happened, I still like to see a Popey who’s all about Ubuntu.
And I’m saying this as someone who isn’t a Ubuntu fanboy. I always seem to have Ubuntu or one of its derivatives running somewhere (currently Lubuntu on my daughter’s laptop), but I rarely run it as my main distribution.
I don’t expect Ubuntu to be the one, true distro and savior of all things good and holy in the free-software world. So I’m not disappointed that it isn’t fighting for the traditional desktop in the way it once did. Others find that hard to accept. I’m not like that.
We still have Debian, Fedora, Mint, Slackware and hundreds of others. And then there are the BSDs. There is no shortage of love for the desktop.
Mark Shuttleworth is making a big play for the phone market with Ubuntu Touch. While I really hope Ubuntu succeeds on the phone, I’m not terribly optimistic. Shuttleworth likes to bet big, and I understand that the desktop is far from where the heat is today’s technology world.
And who else is on the phone (and tablet, for that matter)? Nobody. Android, being a Google project and not terribly open and getting less open all the time, does not count. For me anyway.
So I’m happy for Ubuntu to take its focus off the desktop in favor of mobile. When it comes to my desktop use, I’m covered.
Back to Ubuntu 13.10. When you actually slap it on the box, it’s not exciting but does get the job done. And given that Ubuntu- (and Debian-) derived goodness can be yours in myriad ways with just about any desktop environment in the Unix/Linux world, that’s more than all right.
These things happen in predictable patterns. Due to hardware issues I land in Fedora, and after six months it’s time for something else.
Not that Fedora 18 and now 19 haven’t been great, because they have.
But I’m wary of my AMD APU-based HP laptop’s trouble with suspend/resume and 3D acceleration. I had both working for a very short time during the AMD Catalyst 13.6 beta’s brief run.
But before that I had neither, and now I have decent 3D with AMD Catalyst but seemingly no hope of working suspend/resume with this AMD A4-4300M APU and its AMD Radeon HD 7420G graphics.
And I’m getting tired of new kernels coming into Fedora, some with Catalyst support, some without. And it’s past time that this AMD GPU (I think it’s the Trinity family) get better support from the kernel and the free and proprietary drivers.
What I’m saying is that if the hardware support I need is not going to come soon, I’d like something more stable while I’m waiting.
So I started auditioning new Linux distributions yesterday.
And when Debian 7.1 and 7.2 Live DVDs both allowed me to successfully suspend/resume my HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop, I was firmly pulled back into the Debian camp. To my “home” distro.
Continue reading “After six or so months with Fedora, I’m looking for something new”
Big-time Ubuntu contributer Benjamin Kerensa blogs on why he’s leaving Ubuntu.
Today I talk about the Ubuntu Edge and Canonical’s IndieGoGo crowdfunding effort to amass $32 million to make the Android-Ubuntu dual-booting phone a manufactured reality. Last I heard, they were over $5.5 million.
And look for more 40 Seconds of Linux videos in the near future.
Ubuntu’s SABDFL (“self-appointed benevolent dictator for life,” as he’s known) Mark Shuttleworth just added comment No. 1834 to Ubuntu’s Bug No. 1 — “Microsoft Has a Majority Market Share” — and closed the bug.
Sure, Ubuntu might have played a small part in knocking off Microsoft Windows as the dominant operating system for computing devices, but as Shuttleworth admits — and I give him a whole lot of credit for doing so, it’s more the move (especially in the consumer space) away from desktop/laptops to mobile and tablet devices running iOS and Android that has pushed Microsoft to the sidelines.
Coincidentally, I’ve also been thinking about Ubuntu’s Bug No. 1 myself lately, and like SABDFL figuring that it should be closed.
Continue reading “Mark Shuttleworth closes Ubuntu’s Bug No. 1 now that Microsoft’s hold on computing is declining”