>>> "In fact I think Linux has a tendency to encourage average computer users to become power users once they spend some time with it."
I think this is an important general point. I've got no real opinion on the evolution of Ubuntu, but we must stop thinking about beginners and expert users as rigid, separated categories. First, there are many degrees and variations on the tech savviness scale. Second, people can learn. Granted, many people won't, since they don't care about the tools they use. But others will learn, if you give them computers that don't push toward laziness and reduce the steepness of the learning curve.
I think Mac OS, in some aspects, is a good example of empowering. For years, Preview and iPhoto had basic tools for editing pictures that Windows lacked. You can adjust saturation, levels, and so on. You can realize that these tinkerings can be not hugely complicated. And if, as a newbie, you end up stuck in Photoshop someday, you will be less scared and hopeless than if you had never used Preview.
The vast vast majority of people want to click on the Firefox icon and go to Facebook. People have lives that are busy, and the computer is a tool to get a job done. How many people "explore" the engine of their cars? Not many.
What about something as simple as changing you screensaver? My few years working as a sysadmin in a maintenance department at a University (read low tech knowledge) tells me people who care if they couldn't change something as simple as that yet you can't do that in Ubuntu 11.10. Changing fonts is another thing that's pretty annoying in this release but not as big a miss as the screen saver to most people. I hit those two things in the first few minutes of using the new release.
They are removing so many simple things like that pretty much everyone expects to be there that it's becoming ridiculous. The fact that the option to change some config exists does not in anyway prevent someone from clicking on the firefox icon and going to Facebook. (and I really hate the attitude that most assume people just want to go to facebook. The fact is most people do a whole lot more with their machine than most simplists are assuming with no data to back it up.)
I'm all for sane defaults but don't remove every configuration knob.
I couldn't agree more. Lots of people are panicking about Unity because it's not as configurable as Gnome use to be, but they forget that we're in a transition period. Unity is brand spanking new, and I'm sure it'll have more configuration options in the future.
That might be a good point if it weren't already so simple to build user interfaces that are simultaneously obvious to newbies while at the same time being ridiculously extensible. You just build it in a language that exposes a repl. Mozilla doesn't even do a particularly good job at this (given how they bury the replness), and it's still fostered a plugin ecosystem that has kept it competitive despite competitors eating its lunch on performance grounds.
Having a REPL and being extensible seem like totally orthogonal concepts to me. You can have a REPL and be hardly extensible. You can lack a REPL and be extremely extensible. If anything, the REPL is going to expose interfaces that enable extensibility; it's those APIs that are important, not the existance of an REPL.
Technically they are orthogonal, but in practice if you have a repl implementation that's well done, it will be used by the developers, and the developers will ensure that the functionality they need to implement the project is accessible through it. The developers can still screw things up, but it's a factor that encourages them to do the right thing through basic dogfooding.
> What about something as simple as changing you screensaver?
In over a dozen years, I've never heard my wife ask me: "how do I change my screen saver?". In over 30 years, I've never heard either of my parents say: "how do I change my screen saver?" I've also never heard this question from aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces nor nephews. It's not for lack of questions. At holiday events I wear the T-Shirt that says: "Yes. I'm a software Engineer. No. I will not fix your computer".
"Some people don't want to invest time and energy to save time and energy later."
I believe the phrasing you were looking for is "the vast majority".
Apple concentrates on providing a good experience for that vast majority. Everyone else can use OS X's CLI or tools like Automator, AppleScript, Xcode, Dashcode and MacRuby (all for free, albeit not all of it is 'free software').
That's simply not true. People pay thousands of dollars to attend Excel classes which show them all the little 99.99%-of-people-will-never-need-this-feature features, and they then use these features to be more productive in their work. If they were programmers, they wouldn't need those features, because they are simple enough to implement. But they're somewhere between programmers and users: they can't program, but they can learn a lot about how to use software. To make those users productive, you have to give them a lot of features.
Yes, the average person that visits YouTube and Facebook doesn't need a featureful desktop. But many people want to use their $2000 computer for more than that.
Ubuntu fails to showcase many of the best aspects of Linux as a system. Linux (and other open-source OSes, obviously) is an environment in which users are able to exercise more freedom in their usage of their computers than virtually anywhere else. Instead of an environment in which "users" are at the mercy of "developers", the instruction manual is included. Anyone can change their computer's behavior to the extent of their choosing--and there's nobody to tell them not to. Ubuntu takes this and ignores it completely, trying instead to copy user interface features from other projects and environments to win users that like the idea of cheap software.
Not everyone is a kernel hacker, obviously... but Ubuntu should be proud that on Linux every user /can/ become one if they so desire. To emphasize the same read-only one-size-fits-all thinking that Apple has popularized is to disregard entirely the philosophy of the foundation on which Ubuntu exists.
The argument that Ubuntu is a pragmatic, get-things-done distribution is founded in fact; it certainly is. But that doesn't mean it has to make it worse for software development and make it difficult to actually alter your system in meaningful ways. I ran Ubuntu for over a year and every attempt to dig into the system's internals (init scripts, configuration tools, what apt actually /did/, etc.) resulted in frustration because of the great complexity and the lack of any help that the OS itself provided. Comparing distros like Arch Linux that guide their users into the system in order to make the changes they want, Ubuntu is about as read-only as I've ever seen in an open-source Linux-based system.
Even so, Arch isn't a distro for beginners by any stretch of imagination. And there I think Ubuntu has the ability to come out far ahead, if they embrace the fact that they are producing a system designed to be improved by the "end-users". A Linux distribution is not a product like a commercial software package. It's an environment that should foster both productivity and learning. To suggest that users should use a static system or merely accept their updates in 6-month-increments is like suggesting that a carpenter should never consider the manufacture of his tools. Sure, there may be a table to craft today, but improving at the craft of doing so is an important goal--and Ubuntu should help its users improve in their usage of their systems by helping them take small, friendly steps into improving the software they use in real ways.
Stop treating users like children and engage them as equals. Apple can't do that because they have to keep their users dependent. Ubuntu is missing out on its greatest source of potential.
That may be true, but isn't that what Ubuntu is trying to change?
Sure, as a dev/power user I might be annoyed with some of the changes they make here and there, but as a linux supporter, I'd be much more annoyed if they weren't actively trying to expand to a broader audience. Regardless of how they're going about it, I'm just glad they're actually doing something in that area.
And yet, this isn't orthogonal to still keeping it extensible, transparent and open for learning. Yes, most users might not want or need this. But there might be some who get drawn into it. Never block anyone from learning.
>Most users aren't carpenters, they have no interest in crafting their own tools, they just want a decent looking coffee table that doesn't require them to hand build it.
You misunderstood the analogy, I think. Everyone is a carpenter in some way. The OS isn't the table, it's the tool.
>They aren't equals, have you met most users?
Yet again, you misunderstood. "Equals" means to stop treating users like they are generally unable (and unwilling) to learn. Worse, Ubuntu/Unity (actively or passively) hinders people who are willing to learn.
I'm not saying you should force people to learn. I'm saying you should give them sane defaults, and the option to learn how to change them if they chose to do so (and ideally, with an easy and obvious way to restore the defaults).
> And yet, this isn't orthogonal to still keeping it extensible, transparent and open for learning.
They're related. Keeping those things isn't free or easy when most users don't care.
> Everyone is a carpenter in some way. The OS isn't the table, it's the tool.
This is how a programmer thinks; it is exactly tho opposite of what normal people think. Users don't see the os as a tool and have no interest at all in it. The os is the table to them, it launches their apps and that's all they have interest in. They don't want to understand it or tweak it or think of it as a tool.
> "Equals" means to stop treating users like they are generally unable (and unwilling) to learn
But they are generally unable and/or unwilling to learn. You leave me feeling you simply haven't interacted with many normal people. You're talking like most people think like a programmer; they don't.
> I'm not saying you should force people to learn. I'm saying you should give them sane defaults, and the option to learn how to change them if they chose to do so (and ideally, with an easy and obvious way to restore the defaults).
I don't know whether you used "users like my mom" just as a manner of speech, but in my case that is literally true - my mom does use Ubuntu and I quite appreciate the simplification of Ubuntu's interface that's happened over time which has made it possible for my mom to use it.
I agree that they should come up with a nice default user friendly setup but they MUST also allow the user to toggle on/off the bits of fluff they want or don't want and they shouldn't have to search Google to figure out how. Also, they have to do fancy animations right, if they're consistently choppy they are no longer a positive feature. My machine runs Windows 7 with all the fluff smoothly, they need to hit that point. Since you haven't used it, all I have to ask is if the Alt+Tab screen took a full second or more to show up would you be happy even when just using an editor and terminal? I've been using Unity for over a month to give it a fair shot but I'm currently installing Xubuntu and I probably won't try Unity again until I consistently see people saying 'Whoa, check it out, they got it right'.
What are your specs like? I've used it on my netbook and a cheap 2006 Dell laptop (no animations) and a dual-core Atom board (animations) and everything had been smooth and quick. I wonder if the problem is driver support.
I think the fact that you haven't used it lately explains why you don't understand what the author is trying to say. There are plenty of "mom-level" user frustrations with this release too. (my young kids, who just play games, hate it)
I would sum up the article as such: Ubuntu needs to focus on being the best Ubuntu it can be for its users. If Ubuntu tries to be Apple (imposing arbitrary UI choices and tastes on them, with little to no recourse) it will neither be good at that or what they were good at to begin with.
Ubuntu used to be Debian that just worked. Now it's trying to be something more, but it seems to have lost the "just works" part. When I tried 11.10, I had problems with several of the desktop environments crashing or being very visibly broken. I had poor graphics performance. I had no suspend/resume. All of these things worked on the same computer a year ago.
I think Ubuntu may be trying to move too fast. Moving fast is great if you can pull it off, but it's not worth breaking the basic functions of the OS to get a more flashy UI. If Ubuntu does want to copy Apple, there's one major thing they need to learn: Apple releases features when they're done.
The problem is that Ubuntu is not focusing on the fundamentals and they're not putting enough money into testing.
I know well and good that Ubuntu was conceived because Shuttleworth felt that Linux was ready for the big time and that Red Hat etc had too much penchant to devote resources into low-level bickering that ultimately had relatively little effect on your average end user instead of focusing on improving user experience, but now that Ubuntu has moved the user experience so far forward, they should reconsider that mission. The places where Linux is most lacking is low-level compatibility for things like fast 3D acceleration and power management.
Canonical should use some of its funds (aka "Mark Shuttleworth's money") to buy the 100 best selling laptop models each year, set rigorous testing standards, spend six months developing a new release and then take however long is necessary to make sure that everything passes on the last three years' best selling laptops. In this process, they should not be shy about contribution to X, kernel, etc., and should distribute patched versions of these if necessary to get compatibility.
That, combined with Ubuntu's user experience work, is what will really make Linux a completely viable desktop computing platform. Far too often things break between releases and/or upgrades.
The problem is that Ubuntu is not focusing on the fundamentals and they're not putting enough money into testing.
I think you made my point more succinctly than I did.
I think the UX was just fine in last year's Ubuntu. You could argue about whether Gnome 2.x was as slick as Windows 7 or OS X (I think it was at least better than Windows), but I don't think there's much doubt the system was usable by non-geeks. The first thing to break for me was suspend/resume, with one of 10.10's kernel updates. I reverted to an older kernel and hoped 11.04 would fix the problem. It didn't, and it precluded running the older, working kernel. Performance also got worse, and I can't think of any noteworthy improvements as I didn't consider Unity ready for prime time.
So then 11.10 came out. Reviews said Unity was great now and everything ran smoothly, so I pulled the trigger on the upgrade. Unity did, in fact mostly work, though it was slow and glitchy. Oh well, back to Gnome Classic. Of course, it's Gnome 3 now and I can't even move the clock. That won't do, but I've heard the new Gnome 3 gnome-shell is awesome, and I have a video card that can handle it. It loads, slowly, but UI components sometimes vanish when I try to interact with them. Eventually, X crashes. Oh well, that gives me an opportunity to see what progress KDE 4 has made. I can report that the error messages for Plasma crashing look like they've had some attention from a designer since the last time I saw them. Good work.
I'm running Linux Mint Debian Edition with Xfce now. Still no suspend/resume, but everything else works. The Linux desktop experience is almost back to where it was two years ago. Yay leadership!
"Far too often things break between releases and/or upgrades."
I recently tried to upgrade my older 9.10 install to 10.4 LTS. I got a bunch of errors about x.org upon upgrade (I think maybe because I downloaded and installed Nvidia's Linux driver a while ago), and yep you guessed it - hosed system upon reboot.
These sort of showstopper problems should not be occurring - not in the year 2011. Totally inexcusable as far as I'm concerned.
I'm a Linux user, full stop, and generally have some eye-rolling in these threads, where someone comes along and says something like "after 10 years of Windows, I tried Ubuntu for a day and it sucks", but the hardware regressions are indeed maddening. If something worked once, it should not stop working.
The problem is that Ubuntu is not focusing on the fundamentals and they're not putting enough money into testing.
As an example, if Ubuntu had instead teamed up with Adobe, Mozilla (for Firefox), and Google (for Chrome), and shipped a fix for the Flash problem that's been around for years (referring to Flash's instability on Firefox, Chrome, etc.), I think they would've pleased far more users w/a much more subtle change than the massive UI revamp that is Unity.
I totally agree. Unity in particular feels like alpha quality software. I like the idea of a sleek, modern, composited desktop, but Unity isn't there yet.
Releasing early and often is good. Pushing that software on people who didn't choose it is not. I feel like there should have been a "Try Unity" button at the Ubuntu installer so people like me could just wait until it's ready.
Maybe I'll be happy with Unity in two years. But in that time I'll have to suffer stuttering, lag and the whims of armchair UI theorists who think Alt-Tab should jump workspaces by default.
And interestingly enough to what some are complaining about the screen saver, on OS X the screen saver, desktop picture, and sound theme are bastard children with near zero updates in a decade. Straight up. But they're still customizable for people who want to.
What's wrong with that? Just provide a standard install location and let those that want to utilize it do so.
As an avid Mac OS X/Linux/Ubuntu user, I really truly don't get the direction Canonical is heading with Unity.
My biggest problem with Ubuntu is that it seems like you can treat it like Debian, but you can't. I don't know how many times I've updated files in /etc and had them rewritten by the Ubuntu specific GUIs without me knowing it.
I almost want Ubuntu to either abandon the traditional Debian subsystem or have a "Power User" configuration where you can tell it to use /etc files over the GUI config.
I consider myself ideologically more in line with Debian, but their refusal to support my wifi card along with an install process that's just got a few nasty quirks made me wary when I made the switch to stable a few months ago. Multiple spectacular failures upon upgrading to testing pushed me back to Ubuntu for the time being.
It's perfect for a tiny dev server or toy machine. I was surprised, and tend to use Ubuntu on my non-critical servers.
Debian testing/unstable works just great; I keep meaning to move toward it instead. Though I really do feel that Ubuntu packages come better configured and ready to go. None of this has bit me in the ass yet.
I think Ubuntu should zag where Apple zags. I think they're doing it right. They're in a unique position to take an Apple-like path.
I, for one, applaud what they're doing, as much as it terrifies all the half-power-users (I don't mean that as a slight, I do think it's a little silly to get upset about Ubuntu's default WM and claim to 'understand UNIX').
If by "I don't mean that as a slight, I do think it's a little silly to get upset about Ubuntu's default WM and claim to 'understand UNIX'" you mean it's possible for a hacker to change back from Unity to another interface. I must concur... but dissent on the fact that doing so is easy for a regular geek. It's not. It may be easy to the people that do ""understand Unix"". But for myself, I found that it was easier saying it than doing it. Not impossible... true. However since I'm not a great "hacker" but a mere guy with some understanding of the terminal, it proved to be a real mess.
Huh? You don't need the terminal. You can chose the environment in the login screen, there's a drop down menu besides your name. Not exactly intuitive, but very easy to find out using Google or a forum. If you want Gnome 3, you can install it from the repositories (again, no terminal required, at least not in 11.10), and it'll be there in the drop down menu.
Yes I was speaking of Gnome3. And No. It's not only "Install it from the repositories". Maybe it worked easily for you.. but for me t'was horrible. And yeah, I ended up having to mess around in the terminal and lynx to solve the problem (I had no other computer and was not going to always reboot to windows to Google something while tidying everything up). But yeah you can always say that's because I'm a noob, and was unable to do it right... but that's exactly the problem. A "newbie" should not have that kind of problem.
Sorry then. I guess it's only foolproof when it actually works#. My own upgrade experience wasn't for the faint of heart. I hope it was a learning experience, at least; it usually is for me. ;)
Beginners shouldn't have this kind of problem; but put another way, beginners shouldn't mess with this stuff unless they're willing to have this kind of problem (I'm sure most of us have been there, willingly).
# I'm not sure Ubuntu is particularly bad in this regard. It seems to be universal among all the operating systems (and everything else, for that matter). But I guess Linux is more likely to drop you to a shell, which might be scary for beginners.
I personally don't hate Unity, I just wished I could do simple things like change my screensaver out of the box with Ubuntu 11.10 without having to add xscreensaver. I just thought that was basic functionality enough today to be included like it was one release ago. I'm eyeing Arch Linux right now and I'm getting ready to migrate.
I think there were be less complaints about Unity if it didn't feel like an unfinished, half-baked piece of software. There are numerous issues with it that probably should have been solved before deciding that it was ready for 'prime time.' In trying to forcibly push everyone in the direction that they want to go, they may just sour a lot of people to the platform... Oops!
Windows poorly copied Apple's UX for years and never got close on quality. Ubuntu isn't showing greater success. Apple's UX is radical and thorough. If you can't get thorough right, it is better to be simple and functional than having 5% of everything be broken or distorted.
I really don't agree with this sentiment at all. There are infinite Linux distros out there to play with that are more inline with power users. Ubuntu is for a completely different crowd so what would be the point of just merging into that nexus? The world doesn't need another power-user Linux distro. It needs a Linux distro that isn't painful to use for the regular people.
Exactly. I think the statement "Linux users are power users," which is the premise underlying most of the OP, is too narrow-minded. The whole spirit of GNU/Linux is that anybody who wants to use it, can do so without restriction--power user, developer, third-world student, hacker, artist. That ethos is primary to any claim that Linux has to follow Unix philosophies or any particular UI guidelines. And it is exactly what has spawned and continues to nurture a healthy diversity of distros. Just because Ubuntu has gone in one direction means very little for Linux as a whole; some would argue that their direction is an important one, and time will tell. Certainly the work that Canonical does on usability and basics like driver support will be available for other distros to cherry pick as appropriate. The blunt answer to the OP is "if Canonical no longer serves your needs, just install one of the hundreds of other distros."
building a UI for developers is impossible, because every developer wants something totally different. it's also pointless because every developer will customize their environment to make it work for them.
you can't please all the people all the time. at some point you have to make a decision that some use cases can't be supported, for the sake of progress. in those cases, i think dropping support for the people who need support the least is the only logical way to go.
personally, i use ubuntu (and unity too!) every day as my primary development machine (python programming and database admin), and when i come home i have it on my primary play machine too. it does what it needs to do if you are willing to adjust your workflow a little bit. and if you aren't willing to adjust your workflow at all, ever, then maybe preconfigured DEs are not for you.
eh, personally, I also hate unity. I am a linux SysAdmin, so if I want to go muck around in the internals or install and configure my own window manager, sure, I can. But that's not why I use ubuntu on the desktop. I use ubuntu on the desktop because it just works. If I want to tinker with Linux, I can do it on a server and get paid for it. With older versions of ubuntu? heck, getting drivers is usually easier than with windows. Most things? plug and go, no downloading a driver from a third party website or anything. You plug it in and it just works. (Some things require more work. Those things get taken back to Fry's. Again, desktops are low-value. I'm not going to spend too much time messing with them.)
The problem is that unity is, well, it's garbage. If I wanted a mac, I'd buy a mac. I liked the old gnome defaults; they were pretty good. Right now? I'm on ubuntu 11.10, and I'm considering another distro.
Unity is simply unusable; It's annoying for all the reasons that the mac interface is annoying, only the whole thing is done, well, worse. Just finding a program is a huge pain in the ass. So I'm running gnome-legacy, which is okay, but still pretty annoying compared to older ubuntu versions.
So yeah; I'm pretty irritated. Not irritated enough to buy a mac, mind you, but likely irritated enough to spend some time looking at other distros, if I'm going to have to spend effort on my X setup, I'm going with a distro that is supported for more than three years.
I was in the same boat and ended up switching to Xubuntu -- and I don't regret it for one second. I get all the good stuff ("just works") with a sleek, customizable UI, that also happens to be very frugal wrt. system resources. It's a win-win really. :)
I don't think this would solve the problem.
Devbuntu would basically just be kubuntu or xbuntu.
If Ubuntu wants to target less technical users it needs to make itself a compelling platform for them which means resolving almost all of the niggling issues and an influx of end user apps, in other words a miracle..
What would be more useful is a more sophisticated UI that can be scaled back by default but have lots of custom options to enable depending on taste. Gnome2 provided this quite well, but I fear that it will be no longer maintained in some silly attempt to poorly imitate other platforms.
If you want uber-simple Linux then what is wrong with android?
Obscure distributions? Source tarballs? What are you two on about?
Debian, Ubuntu's daddy, is the creator of the apt system. You'd be insane to say it's not a distribution for power users. Then there's other major distros with large user bases. Don't blame Ubuntu if you've never looked beyond its borders.
Perhaps what's needed is a "Devbuntu" that relies on most of the same components as Ubuntu, but targets power users.
For me, Ubuntu has always been the "Linux for newbies" a little bit like Mandrake was in the time. I'm not saying that all Ubuntu users are newbies.. but Ubuntu is the distro to starts with if you're a beginner. Lots of my university friend who had no knowledge of Linux would get up and running with Ubunty in minutes. (A live cd, tool to help create partitions, [next], [next], automatically configure network). I mean, a Windows user would almost feel at home on Ubuntu.
Soooo, I find it weird that the author complains about Ubuntu saying it's not the right direction. We all know there are dozen of distributions and dozen of window managers. By all means, if you don't like the new updates, just take a WM more lightweight (For instance, fluxbox, awesome, stumpwm, xmonad, etc.) As for the distro, I'm using ArchLinux for a couple of years and I'm loving it.
It's not that I don't like beautiful intuitive UI; it's just that it's not for me (At least on my computers). However, I've got an iPhone and I love the fact that everything just work. But please, don't force me to use GUI everywhere on my desktop; let that for people who enjoys the everything just work.
But then, maybe I'm wrong. I assumed that Ubuntu always was axed for beginners.. Was I wrong with that assumption?
I think the author misses various ways that OS X has been developer friendly. Last I checked, Xcode is free, and OS X ships with Python, PHP, Ruby, and Apache.
Plus, as div said, developers live mostly in the terminal, so there isn't much that Canonical can do to cater to us. I'd rather have everything hidden from the end user but easily available to the power user via the command line.
> Apple [...] things that just work for most people irrespective of prior computer usage.
I've spent way to many hours helping fellow developers, friends and relatives to debug their Apple. Apple does not make things that just work irrespective of prior computer usage. People get totally lost with Apple just as they do with other environments and that is indeed irrespective of prior computer knowledge, which means so-called developers also get lost (MySQL-python anyone? Or maybe you'd rather have another slice of RMagick?)
The amount of "Power users shouldn't use Ubuntu" comments on here are fairly indicative of why those outside the power user/dev community view us the way they do. It's just elitist whining at the end of the day. Who the hell are "we" to decide what people should and shouldn't use based on their ability? It's just this sort of thing that turns the lay person away from wanting to know more.
Fact of the matter is, if you don't like Unity don't bloody use it. I've never found a single thing I couldn't do in Ubuntu that would force me over to another distro. I mean sure, we could all build our own Gentoo installs from the ground up but who the hell has that sort of time on their hands?
To indicate that Ubuntu is inherently a newbie only system because of eye candy smacks of both arrogance and a complete lack of understanding. It's like calling a mansion a shack because you don't like the colour of the window frames.
“[Our] goal is 200 million users of Ubuntu in 4 years. We’re not playing a game for developers hearts and minds – we’re playing a game for the worlds hearts and minds. and to achieve that we’re going to have to play by a new set of rules.”
Does it bother you for rational or irrational reasons? It bothers me for irrational reasons - it feels like it's too much, but really, I'm using about 65 GB of a 500 GB disk. So I tell myself to ignore that feeling and just install Xcode because it's the most efficient means of getting developer tools on my Mac.
I think he has no idea what he's talking about. Being user-friendly doesn't mean abandoning developers or locking up the platform. He's just another "power user" upset because his old tricks are no longer useful.
What percentage of users are developers? 5 percent? Lower? It's unwise to cater the entire OS to the needs of such a small minority especially when they are the best suited to change the environment to meet their needs. Complaining about needing to download Xcode is a perfect example of why it is wrong. If it's bundled into the OS you're wasting 4GB of space on tens of millions of machines to save the 5% a 4GB download. That makes no sense.
The big problem with Ubutunu is still that it is, no matter how much nicer they make it look, a collection of inconsistently designed user interfaces for mediocre clones of better applications on other platforms. It has no soul. It just stumbles forward feebly copying whatever else happens to be popular on other platforms. It's always going to be playing catch-up to ever moving goal posts. Unless you have some religious zeal to use OSS software there is no good reason to even consider Ubuntu over Windows or OSX.
I usually avoid sweeping statements for exactly that reason but I think it's true in this case. If anyone has a good counter argument I'd be happy to admit I am wrong. Just to give you some idea where I am coming from I used Ubuntu on my work laptop for about 5 years. I got a new machine recently with Windows 7 and I just couldn't think of any good reason to install Ubuntu.
I can think of a few good reasons, but hey are purely developer-oriented. At my last job, I had an Ubuntu-based desktop because it made virtualization cleaner with a more stable base system—and the company wouldn't buy Macs. Windows ran in a virtual machine, and I developed on Linux, Windows, and a couple of Unixes. For that job, Ubuntu was the best choice I made.
That's the idea - make lightweight, easy development the soul of your operating system. Build the entire OS around immediately useful GUI customization and task automation, for example, to the point that everybody that uses it can do it and wants to. Kind of like If This Then That, but for the desktop.
I think your view of the 4GB download is going to depend on your Internet speed. At 1 MB/s or so, I've found it annoying to wait an hour for a download, but it's hardly the end of the world for an occasional thing. Could definitely be improved.
I agree wholeheartedly with his take on this halfassed push towards poorly designed minimalism masquerading as user friendliness but I disagree that ubuntu should be some kind of developers distribution, that's never what Ubuntu was supposed to be. It's entire purpose is to be a novice distribution.
Power users should not be using it, it's not built for them.
Making the Linux desktop simpler requires much more than changing the UI.
More reliable drivers for common hardware and availability of good, simple software for tasks like video/photo/music editing are way more important.
I think part of Shuttleworth's philosophy is that he wants Ubuntu to be(come) an OS that the rest of the world can use, not just the traditional Linux power users, but even the emerging computer markets that may not be able to afford the latest and greatest hardware with a proprietary OS.
A generation of hackers may have started with BASIC on Apple IIs, but getting a C compiler on a modern Mac is a 4GB XCode download.
A hefty download, perhaps, but free and once it's installed you have a good, modern, IDE with extensive documentation and perhaps the richest and most mature UI toolkit there is to play with. Getting something into the app store for sale may require crossing more speed bumps than necessary but if you want to learn systems or UI hacking it's far easier on a Mac now than it was on an Apple II.
Ubuntu may have taken this simplification strategy too far but catering primarily to the power user and developer is what earned Linux its minuscule market share in the first place.
Surely the author should just pick a different distro? Why is this Canonical's problem? Isn't this sorta the whole point of Linux? If you don't like something there is seemingly infinite choice so you can always have what you want.
I haven't used Linux as a primary desktop OS for almost 7 years, so I figured I'd give it a go - so I got a ThinkPad W520 running Ubuntu 11.10 for work (software development.) Verdict so far? Next time I'm going for a Mac again.
* X doesn't automatically set up my nvidia graphics card. Sure, I can manually install the driver and set up Xorg.conf, but I just don't want to do that. Luckily there's also an integrated Intel graphics card.¨
* VGA port does not work (no presentations using the projector for me) because of previous point.
* The wireless keeps freezing. At least 10 times a day I have to (using the physical switch on the side of the laptop) turn off the wireless card and turn it on again. Wow. This also is something I'm sure can be fixed by jumbling around with drivers, but again - I just don't want to do that.
* Gnome is horrible. I might be spoiled (lets face it: I AM spoiled) by Apple and their 'everything just works' - which it pretty much does as far as UI goes. Currently I'm running Xfce, which I found to be pleasantly simple. I found Gnome to be buggy and annyoing. Just like in the old days.
Of course there are a lot of positives, like apt being great (my main reason for the switch), and all the available GNU/Linux tools. As others have pointed out, if you use the terminal a lot it's great - but that goes for pretty much any distro.
As far as Ubuntu goes I totally agree with OP. It just doesn't cut it. It's supposed to bring Linux to the people, isn't it? Well, it's not doing a good job of that. I installed Ubuntu to have a system that just works. It doesn't.
If Apple were to bring in a customizable packaging system like apt it'd be a dangerously perfect match. Don't see that happening though.
While I'm 100% behind this, no questions asked, couldn't have said it better myself, Canonical has one huge disadvantage going for them if they were to try and create the best damn development platform out there: Hardware.
I do agree though, and I do hope Canonical takes this advice and succeeds at it. They're possibly one of the only groups both big enough and organized enough to pull it off and do it well.
When Ubuntu first came along, I was a Linux user, and I tried Ubuntu on a few different occasions, but I never liked it mostly for the same reasons why people seem to be complaining. It just felt like eye candies tacked onto Debian. There are many other good distributions that are geared toward power users. Why are so many complaining?
The main reason I use Ubuntu over vanilla Debian for my desktop is lack of polish. It's not that I can't use it, but Ubuntu adds more polish, and what it takes away is stuff I don't notice because I don't tweak my desktop or laptop much anymore.
For the most part my "tweaks" consists of a git repo of my dot-files, and I rarely run more than a couple of full screen browser windows and a bunch of full screened terminal windows.
I use arch and I never can't find a 'reasonable' package in pacman. If I'm installing something weird or proprietary (e.g., Skype) I just get it from the arch unsupported repo, which is just as easy using a tool called packer. I've never come across something I wanted that I couldn't get from one of those sources.
I'd say if anything it's better than apt-get since the packages are updated so often!
Maybe Canonical is trying to sell software and services, and needs a better UI in order to compete? While I echo the sentiments of the author, I'm guessing that Canonical is knowingly pursuing a certain market. A certain market that exceeds the Linux power-user/developer market in size.
I've been complaining about Unity since 11.04. The only worthwhile improvement in 11.10 is that Dasher is no longer ugly solid black. Well, the menu in the upper right has some sensible options now. They took away screensavers, like it's up to Canonical to make the world green? I never used them on my systems on a full time basis but it was nice to take a break sometimes and play with them. I can't change fonts now, even my wife who is a non-technical user said, "the new fonts are terrible why can't I change them?".
I'm going to try out KDE for a while, it's heavy or it used to be, Gnome 2 was just right. I've tried XFCE and it feels like an older Gnome (which isn't a bad thing), down the road it might be the better option until they get a wild hair and go nutts too.
I believe, the problem is, various implementations of the same subsystems do not cooperate well (if they even cooperate at all). For example, NetworkManager does not cooperate with /etc/network/* or /etc/ppp/* or wpa_supplicant — it either steps away and does nothing or uses its own configuration (stored in completely separate manner). Sure, some approaches work (say, NM calls pppd, thus /etc/ppp/options have some effect), while some don't (good luck teaching NM to run PPPoE over 802.11 bridge).
This leads to a problem that one just can't have easily co-existing multiple approaches to work and configuration (i.e. "Ubuntu newbie" vs "seasoned GNU/Linux guru" ways). You have either one or another, and switching between is a pain.
I came to say that too. If anything, it keeps decreasing - the first app-capable iOS devices had no app store, and the barrier to entry for programming on either system keeps dropping (the SDKs and even the IDEs are free, for instance). The only claim I can see is the emergence of the OSX App Store - big shocker there, given the success on iOS - but that hasn't resulted in a lockdown of regular installs, and I doubt it will.
As to the XCode-is-required claim, that's been false for a very long time - their GCC is open source, and has been for years. It has only recently become easy though, I'll grant that.
Apple clearly sees iOS and its locked-down environment as the future and Mac OS X as the past. Given that, we can conclude that the overall openness of Apple's offerings will decrease as they focus their efforts on iOS.
Xcode is for-pay now, while it was free earlier.
Apple keeps breaking SIMBL.
Debuggers now need to be signed by Apple or self-signed; either way, it's a pain.
Furthermore, I personally use versions of Android on my tablets and Ubuntu on my desktops. I see no reason that Ubuntu should "make a dent in the tablet market" when Android is already doing fine for us.
1- They think users are plan stupid so they have to decide what's good for users.
2- They're just copying from Apple, don't think about why apple did like that. This will end up with a mess. When i use my friend's mac, i think "this thing can't be better" and then when i use ubuntu with unity all i can think is "What the fk they were thinking ?"
In response to 2), I use a friends mac and think "wtf were they thinking" quite often. Default browser can't fullscreen/kiosk mode? Resize from only one corner, not any border? Heavy reliance on keystrokes with low discoverability?
Apple makes a nice bit of kit, but please, can we stop with pretending they've got it perfect?
Default browser can't fullscreen/kiosk mode? Resize from only one corner, not any border?
Neither is true in 10.7.
Heavy reliance on keystrokes with low discoverability?
For the most part, keystrokes follow similar patterns from application to application. There are inconsistencies (some applications use ctrl-tab to switch tabs, some use ctrl-pgup/pgdn) but for the most part it's self-consistent. (There are some nice power user tweaks, such as a subset of Emacs keystrokes available for navigation in text boxes, but they're not critical.)
It depends where you are coming from I suppose. Kiosk mode until recently didn't really fit in with the Mac (going way back to System 1.0 days) work flow, but when Apple integrated multiple desktop into OS X, it shifted the workflow enough to allow for kiosked windows to inhabit their own 'space'. It's worth checking out as it's quite an elegant solution. I, and I think the vast majority of Mac users would agree on the resizing point and thankfully it has been addressed, but it's worth remembering that the original idea behind one location to resize windows was overall simplicity. Whether or not simplicity was achieved however is an entirely different thing, and I imagine that we'd agree that it wasn't! WRT to short cut keys, they have always be displayed in the menu. Since the menu bar is the primary way that many functions are initially accessed, the idea is that eventually the users will learn them through exposure, which in fact is exactly the same way that most desktop UI educate users. The Wiki entry on the command key make for "intersting" (well, to us geeks mainly!) reading. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_key#The_origin_of_.22.E...
your first two complaints are actually fixed in Lion- and I have to disagree with your third. There's nothing in OS X you need to use a keyboard shortcut to do, and it's easy to find the shortcut for a menu item- it's displayed on the right side of the menu.
Why encourage users to be developers at the EXPENSE of things that "just work"?
When I think of a Linux I should install just to get things done, I think of Ubuntu. The more it positions itself that way, the more it will get users. The GPL and free software culture should take care of the rest. It is the responsibility of developers to build an ecosystem for themselves, because they know how to do it.
Don't you guys see this is why Linux's marketshare has been so small for now? If you don't like Ubuntu, by the way, there are always other Linux distros. You're welcome to install Slackware. On my server, I run CentOS. Why can't there be ONE linux distro that regular people can use without reading a manual?
Unity is all about re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic.
The relative failure of Linux as a traditional desktop platform has very little to do with the UI. Sure Gnome 2 looks clunky and outdated now but it's basically a Win2000/XP Clone as far as UI is concerned (startmenu + taskbar + quicklaunch). So it will have been familiar enough to most users who come from a windows background (who are going to be the ones most wanting to try it). The UI is the not big issue here...
The problems with the Linux desktop for "normal users" (whoever they are) are and always have been:
Lack of ports of popular commercial software for many tasks and in many (not all) cases a lack of a "good enough" open source alternative.
Lack of reliable support for many consumer hardware configurations that are bundled with cheap desktops (nvidia/ATI support still isn't 100% for example), also on some netbooks you install ubuntu and the Fn + F(Key) combinations don't work unless you know to install a specific package. Also support for niche hardware for some tasks is hit/miss.
Weird intermittent issues that some people experience with power saving , wireless , flash etc..
No amount of changing the dock/menubar will fix any of these issues.
Let's face it , default unity is ugly.. it makes windows 7 look gorgeous by comparison but this has pretty much always been the way with Gnome/KDE. For many users (like me) the customisation aspect has been more than enough to make up for this however, unity pretty much kills that.
The only reasons I can think to advise anybody to run a linux desktop are:
You really care about OSS ideals and will not use any non-free software (in which case you want debian not ubuntu).
You are super paranoid and want something secure to install in a VM for using online banking etc.
You want a second OS so that you can diagnose more easily whether something is a hardware/software problem.
You develop software that will run on a Linux server so want a desktop environment that is as close to production as possible (this is me and probably most serious workplace Linux users)
Your a geek and like playing with different OSes
If somebody genuinely only wants to run facebook/youtube etc then pretty much any OS out there will suit their needs, in which case they will want to move over to something closer to iOS / Android rather than some half baked unity.
Even Microsoft have acknologed that you can't really easily build a UI that will work for the casual tablet / netbook user and the "content creator"/business user hence the seperation of metro and the standard Windows UI. I have almost 0 faith in canonical succeeding here.
Building a super simple UI on top of Linux should be left to the likes of Google/HTC,
with commercial OSes being increasingly locked down a space is opening for a serious "power user" system with high customisability, this is where Ubuntu could win big.
Of course people will say to me "oh your not the target market , use another distro"
Well there are a few problems with this argument:
The reason I use Ubuntu is because it is the closest thing the Linux desktop has to a defacto standard setup. Anybody who cares about distributing Linux applications will make sure they work with ubuntu and usually provide a tested .deb or an apt repo. If I switch distro there is a fair chance I lose this and end up back with source tarballs and weird install scripts. I spent a large part of the last 10 years trying different distros and this has consistently been the worst part of the experience.
Just because I am a power user does not mean I don't want my applications to "just work" and be installable through a standard simple interface, Ubuntu does this very very well (for the most part).
I think the whole idea of having different distros for novices and advanced users pretty idiotic really, a good distro should install with sensible defaults that "just work" and allow anybody who wants to customise to a greater or lesser degree. Many developers and other advanced users seem to have no problem customising the "beginner friendly" mac OS for their needs.
I could go on , but I think I'll leave it there :)