Ubuntu and the Temple of Doom

Honestly, why has Ubuntu become the love of the linux community? What I see is a nicely polished distro with virtually no consistent admin tools and a lot of hype. Yes you can configure your desktop, but try set up an ip route with 2 internal network cards without using a single line in the console. I can in SUSE, I can in mandriva. In fact YaST and Mandriva Control Center make having linux on your pc user friendly. The biggest complaint still about linux is you need to be a developer. My arguement against that is that with a good distro, you dont. Fine, I am a software developer. But being able to change all your system settings with a single graphical tool like YaST or MCC makes life for anyone easier.

What is good about Ubuntu?

  • NOT ease of use: In my opinion that is related to Gnome and ubuntu cannot take any credit for it. I am a KDE user, which in my opinion is easier, and Kubuntu is a very second rate usage of KDE. No wonder the kde live cd's are openSUSE based. Ok fine, it has some stuff like pick up my commercial hardware and the binary drivers now, or install codec support. Try this: http://opensuse-community.org/Multimedia and note the little one click installs for both KDE and Gnome! And this http://en.opensuse.org/Hardware will give you links to hardware items and can list some one click installs for drivers that are obscure. In fact getting a new Logitech webcam to work was so easy, I just went there, did the one click install, and plugged in. Thats it.
  • NOT software instalation: Maybe in days before zypper and yast meta package support, was apt-get more amazing than the rpm based distro's, but not anymore. It has long been on par, and now with Novell's one click install, that makes life so easy! software.opensuse.org/search containts most of what anyone needs, with latest version too. Just browse and click. Why would you want to open synaptic package manager or pull up a terminal and type sudo apt-get?
  • NOT prettiness: Fine, the unique brown branding is as good as brown can look. But most of the prettiness is related to the desktop manager Gnome, which is available on every distro. What's more, its easier to have multiple desktop managers on other distro's, and you can even install all of ubuntu's brown branding if you really needed that brown 80s look.
  • NOT release cycle: Yes they're conistent, but so are other distros.
  • Marketing: This is where ubuntu succeeds. They lambast Novell and, their new best friends, Linspire for a Microsoft deal, purely to try and poach users and developers. Nice marketing! They call it Linux for Human Beings. Well call me an alien. Human beings are obviously far more soficsticated and terminal savvy than Chamelions or Penguins huh??
  • Community: This is something I actually like about ubuntu. Half of the once off obscure issues I run into while trying to do something I should be doing are listed on ubuntu forums. The amount of problems I have solved because of this is pretty amazing. But if Ubuntu wasn't there, there would be another community like it, so I guess that this is not really a valid point?

Well at least thats my take on Ubuntu. I dont like it. Its good for linux as a whole, purely due to its popularity and good marketing, but i think Novell and Mandriva have much better products. Ubuntu feels to me to be more like a toy that the coders are playing with at the moment, which keeps linux cool for developers. That is what i feel is holding linux back, people who don't want it to be cool, and would prefer it to stay in the realm of geeks. You can reply as angrily as you want to this, since it seems a lot of ubuntu users do, but I'd rather look into things like incorporating Wine into a linux kernel module, than putting ubuntu on every desktop. Novell are doing so much to get drivers written for linux, and its working! This is what I care about. Moonlight 2.0 was released recently, and wow, its fantastic. Although it came to be out of a deal with Microsoft, it has brought better Silverlight and .net support for linux than native flash has ever done for flash support. If the developers want something to jump onto, get a top IDE ported, or fix up monodevelop ( the number of times 1.0 crashed on me while just trying to make a GUI, GRRRR ) or make code blocks ( What an IDE!!! ) some cross language support, that would be of greater benefit to coders than having a new toy OS.


  1. After using Ubuntu for around 2 weeks now, I have to say I have to agree with some of the points you make here. :) Good article. Too much bashing though heheheh

  2. You phail at axe grinding. You must at least fake objectivity. Ubuntu did what other distros talked about for years, and boy, does that hurt. You don't seem totally ignorant, try to write something interesting and positive instead.

  3. Thanks hugo, for the comment, but I must admit, I am objective about this. I use whatever distro is the best for me at the moment, and in my opinion, that is either openSUSE or Mandriva. Admittedly I havent tried PCLinuxOS, and am very interested. I have had more than my fair share of Ubuntu use, and have given it to many friends, who still use it. Agreed that it has done what other distro's have talked about, and I did mention that its marketing is good. It got linux preinstalled on pc's. Sadly, I feel that other distros might be better suited for it, and thats what I was talking about. I didn't intend to axe grind ubuntu, thats just my opinion on the current distro situation.

  4. Great post !
    For users, like Hugo, who don't see clearly what the author is saying, here is a link to the official documentation of Mandriva 2008 Spring presenting the differents Mandriva tools :

    Please note that not all features are presented in this doc.

    My favourite is drakgw which allow to share easily an internet connection. It will configure : NAT + firewall with shorewall/iptables, a local DNS with bind, a DHCP server, and a transparent proxy ( SQUID ), with just ... about 8 clicks ...

  5. Good comments, i'm sure as Ubuntu develops more will come. However, i prefer to avoid
    linux variants under the heal of microsoft.

  6. Alright, so that's an interesting post.

    You may have some valid points, I confess I'm not in-depth clued-up on the situation. However, as someone who is keen for Linux's general usage to increase, I see Ubuntu as a very important step in the direction of reclaiming Windows market share.

    You see, the fact that you can't set up an ip route with 2 internal network cards without using the console isn't what's important to the average computer user. Perhaps to the average Linux user, yes. But Linux has for too long been set firmly in the realm of high-power users, and Ubuntu gets the vote of those who aren't highly educated in the use of computers.

    One or two other points:
    As to marketing... Well I can't speak to the tactics, but ripping Ubuntu off for calling it 'Linux for human beings' is a little silly. Every distro has a different branding, and ripping Ubuntu off because its brand matches its name (I live in South Africa. The word Ubuntu means something to me) is just a little cheap. I hardly think that they're running down other distros in the process.

    And finally, your point about community: I have to disagree with your final assumption. Without Ubuntu those forums WOULDN'T neccesarily be there. If they weren't there before Ubuntu, what makes you think they'd be there wiithout Ubuntu? I'm not suggesting that Ubuntu is the be-all and end-all of community support, but just that you shouldn't take its success for granted - your article certainly doesn't take its failures for granted!

  7. I don't use linux anymore..

    If basic things cannot work in this lame OS why should i care.

  8. Arrrggghhhhh...who got this piece of junk on reddit?!!??

  9. I switched to Ubuntu because I didn't have to research anything to get it running. Most people have straightforward setups and don't need or want to deal with computer internals. I will admit it's a tad overrated, but I've tried a lot distros over the years and Ubuntu gives me the most features with the least baggage.

    I want it to look nice, I want it to work, and I want to deal with the complexities of my computer as little as possible. Feature creep is not a positive thing, just because somebody somewhere wants a tool handle something doesn't mean it needs to be there in the default installation. Ubuntu's success is proof of that.