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Ten years of Ubuntu (arstechnica.com)
246 points by hpaavola on Oct 23, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments

Ubuntu LTS is the only GNU/Linux distribution that keeps me on Linux on one of my laptops (an Asus netbook).

All the other distributions fail short of 100% laptop support out of the box.

As I am no longer on my 20's with lots of time to spare, either it works out of the box, or it doesn't. I don't care about starting weekend projects that become week long projects just to get something working.

Or just trying out distributions to see how they look like. My first distribution, Slackware 2.0, was a long time ago.

Ubuntu is great and I do like Unity as desktop environment on my netbook.

I'm in my 20s and I feel the same way. It was fun initially to play around with different distributions, but I liked my work and I wanted to get things done without having to spend unnaturally long amounts of time setting things up.

In my case, I frequently update to x.04 releases or x.10 if they are more stable for updated packages that I rely on.

Why is this at the top? It's obvious flame bait.

Yeah, we get it. You are really worried about yourself and your time. Yeah, we get it that you want to make a generalization that "All the other distributions" don't have 100% support. Which is obviously not true by any respect. I'm typing on one right now that both Debian and Arch work without issue.

"I don't care about starting weekend projects that become week long projects just to get something working." It's been almost 10 years since I've had that experience with Linux. This is over 4 desktops and 3 laptops. Can we please bury this meme?

What is it with Linux that someone really needs to hop in an talk about what's wrong with it, no matter what the topic beyond the mere mention of Linux?

Edit: To clarify a bit about this silly meme. Many people find some hunk of junk that the don't use anymore and that they never thought about working with Linux when they bought it. Then they are surprised it doesn't just work. To me, that isn't much different then buying a PC and trying to install OSX on it and complaining about how it didn't just magically work. Many laptops and desktops are certified and targeted to work with Linux. From many of the large manufacturers. You obviously might have trouble if you are trying to cram something onto something that it is not designed for. Are you even an engineer? How do you not realize that?

> It's been almost 10 years since I've had that experience with Linux. This is over 4 desktops and 3 laptops. Can we please bury this meme?

Maybe with desktops, but even just last year, trying to get wi-fi setup on my beagle bone or raspberry pi were hell. Multiple programs to do the same thing, and none of them work quite the same. So running scripts from the command line with the usual commands wouldn't work, so then the only thing that did work was the gui. But what if you don't want to use the gui, because you want the thing to reconnect automatically after power down (an option the gui didn't provide)?

Maybe running ubuntu, this wouldn't have been an issue, but beagle bone had archlinux, and then I tried multiple versions for the raspberry pi, most of them debian based.

So, no. This meme won't die just because most versions work out of box for desktops. It would have to work out of box for anything linux runs on.

Agreed. Desktops? Great compatibility. Laptops? Not so much. This August, in 2014 for those keeping score at home, I had to create a custom LiveCD of Fedora 20 to even get the distro to boot! The vanilla FC20 LiveCD images were shipping a Linux kernel a few weeks to old to work on the new, generic, bare-bones Asus laptop.

The custom spin downloaded all the packages from the updates repository, loading an ever-so-slightly newer kernel that played nice with that Asus's particular UEFI/Intel Haswell combo.

That computer's working great after doing that, but not everyone can be expected to: A) Troubleshoot why a "should work every time" plain-jane OS image won't even boot--kernel panics in 2014? Who knew, right? B) Figure out how to create a more up-to-date version of that image

UEFI and secure boot and on and on... It's not ~2005-2011 anymore, laptops are a lot more complicated and more diverse than they used to be a very short time ago.

> UEFI and secure boot and on and on... It's not ~2005-2011 anymore, laptops are a lot more complicated and more diverse than they used to be a very short time ago.

I think rather the opposite is true. The post-ultrabook era has seen an increasingly uniform PC laptop environment. There are far more laptops you can buy now that are well set up to run linux than ever before because the parts are less likely to come from TinyCompany Electronics, LLC. Taiwan and more likely to come from, say, Intel. An Ultrabook-labelled laptop post-2011 is practically guaranteed to do a good job with linux.

Was your Laptop certified by the manufacturer or distribution to run Linux? Does OSX work on that Laptop out of the box?

I have no experience running or installing OSX and am utterly unequipped to answer that question. I also have no idea what "certified by the manufacturer or distribution to run Linux" means. As I explained elsewhere, there is such a staggering amount of proprietary hardware in use in laptops, none of the Linux Laptop authorities can keep up.

I can, however, answer your unspoken question: Will Windows run on it? Well... Yeah. Windows runs on everything powered by an x86 processor. Windows 8.1 came installed on the machine.

The average computer user can't understand the concept that a certain operating system will not work on their computer. You pick a machine out from an array of nearly-identical machines, then start using Windows 8 or OSX 10.x as soon as you open up the cardboard box and plug in the computer.

> Will Windows run on it? Well... Yeah. Windows runs on everything powered by an x86 processor.

I've tried installing Windows 7 on an old Dell laptop a while ago. I got it working eventually, but had to hunt around for drivers for various things -- rather important things, like network, and video. In the end, I had to persuade some download site to give me the Windows XP drivers for the video card, and it worked with that (which, btw, is pretty awesome).

Of course, this is just anecdote, just like any story about Linux not working immediately on some modern laptop is -- but my experience is that these kinds of issues are much rarer than 10 years ago. Especially with Linux (with which I have most experience), but also with Windows.

My question is that I don't understand why someone buys a Windows laptop expects Linux to run on it perfectly. It's the same to me as expecting OSX to run on a Windows Laptop or to install Windows on a Macbook Air. Why wouldn't you just buy a Laptop with Linux pre-installed or at least a Laptop that is certified to be 100% compatible? And if you now try to say that there aren't as many options, take a look at how many options Apple provides to run OSX.

Links to certifications: http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/desktop/models/?query=&c... https://access.redhat.com/search/browse/certified-hardware/#... http://support.lenovo.com/us/en/documents/pd031426

Links to "open up the cardboard box and plug in the computer" http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834314... https://system76.com/

The problem is not "few options", the problem is "few GOOD options".

With Apple laptops, there is limited choice sure, but the choices are all pretty darn good. With Linux preinstalled laptops, they are entirely uninspiring computers.

The Dell one is nice. Are you sure the X1 comes with linux though? It looks like the only choices are W7 & W8

not related to your comment, but: I can't reply to most comments in this thread, I can't post a top level comment and I can't down-vote any comments... I guess my account has been flagged somehow... I can do all these things in other posts.

Sure! So how did you go with running Windows or Mac OSX or Android on that Beagle Bone or Raspberry Pi?

Linux is the _only_ OS in existence that can run across the variety of hardware it hits. Whether it's from phones through to Supercomputers. Funnily enough when you get to different bits of the hardware spectrum you have to have different skills and capabilities - running on custom ARM hardware doesn't count as standard.

"trying to get wi-fi setup on my beagle bone or raspberry pi were hell"

Can I ask which wifi card/chipset you chose? Was it one that you researched and found out was 100% Linux compatible? Assuming you did do that and didn't find something that was barely hacked to together to have partial support did you actually find editing /etc/network/interfaces with the text below difficult?

auto wlan0

iface wlan0 inet dhcp


I'm going to assume you chose a wifi solution that was not 100% linux compatible. One that had a weird firmware blob or something else. My point is that I watched someone spend a week trying to get a wifi card working on Linux. He called me up for help so I looked up his Laptop and wifi card. I went on Ebay and spent $7(with shipping) for a card that was 100% compatible, swapped it out and it just worked.

Yeah, I have to agree with this. I used GNU/Linux on my laptop exclusively when I was in grad school, and every "sudo apt-get update && upgrade" felt like taking a turn in Russian roulette. The generic device drivers were almost always a nightmare. Power management was abysmal. And this was on a Lenovo machine that is generally considered to be pretty Linux friendly.

While I never did have a problem that wasn't eventually solvable, I finally came to accept that I really don't like playing sysadmin, and would much rather know that I can pick up my machine, perform library updates, and actually go work on something at a moments notice.

At least on a laptop. On a desktop machine, I'm willing to be much more patient.

Just for my own curiosity, did you intentionally chose a Laptop that you knew was 100% compatible to begin with?

Edit to the downvoter who can't use their words: The above comment said "Lenovo machine that is generally considered to be pretty Linux friendly". Seems like a relevant question as to whether that meant 100% compatible via Lenovo's declaration or online research and an educated guess. It was a sincere question as Lenovo does provide specific information about Linux compatibility.


Mind explaining to me what I did wrong there?

@Sibling comment: The Linux Laptop resource websites can't keep pace with the short lifecycles of the typical laptop. It's either pay $400 for this outdated laptop I know will work out-of-the-box with *nix, or spend $300 on a machine that's 1.2x faster with unknown compatibility.

« And this was on a Lenovo machine that is generally considered to be pretty Linux friendly.»

I don't know where you got that info, lenovo laptops have actually been getting away from being linux friendly, at least in my own experience over 5 generations of thinkpads.

This analogy to OS X is completely unreasonable. OS X software and hardware is co-designed to work together, by a single manufacturer/developer. In fact, you could even say that OS X is specifically designed not to work on any hardware not made by Apple. Creating a "hackintosh" desktop is seriously difficult business.

Linux and Windows are nothing like that. With both, the ecosystem of hardware is quite large, and there is an implicit expectation that any OS should work on any machine (ignoring edge cases like embedded hardware). With Windows, this assumption works well because all hardware manufacturers test their machines with Windows. This is almost never the case with Linux, where even if you are lucky to find that a manufacturer has tested with one Linux distro, they might not have tested with your preferred distro. What are you going to do if your distro "isn't certified"? Just walk away? That's not a reasonable choice for many people.

Do you mean like this? http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/xps-13-linux/pd

"implicit expectation that any OS should work on any machine" Really? I don't think that And OSX can run on many Windows machines http://www.hackintosh.com/#hackintosh_compatible

You are talking about 6 years ago.

Also: "What are you going to do if your distro "isn't certified"?" Buy something that is.

Creating a "hackintosh" desktop is seriously difficult business.

I did it recently, and it's not that hard, if you stick with a subset of hardware known to work. Yeah, upgrades from each dotdot release take a little longer, but it's totally worth it.

This is at the top because these complaints are valid even today. Linux doesn't cover the things I have with anything even approaching the level of convenience of Windows.

I say this not because I don't use Linux. I love Linux! I love it so much I just spent some serious time building Linux From Scratch[0] on a laptop so I can know and understand it better. I develop exclusively on * nix platforms, and I use it for everything I can.

However, my main machine is still a Windows machine with Cygwin installed. I do this because my main workflow is to use 3 portrait monitors[1] for effectively 6 workspaces visible simultaneously[2].

To get this effect, I use Nvidia surround to combine these three monitors into a single continuous desktop, then use a program called "WinSplit Revolution" to manage my windows.

I've messed around with countless tools and spent weeks worth of time trying to replicate such an environment on Linux, but I can't. The Nvidia drivers don't support surround, or if they do it's through a nearly undocumented series of settings. I can't find a program to arrange windows this way, after trying tiling window manager after tiling window manager. And, even in more mainstream settings like installing Ubuntu on my new laptop, things like my mouse pad STILL don't work.

But on Windows, I can install everything quickly and all my edge cases are covered. It may be to much to ask for Linux to cover all these, so I'm not disparaging it. I just don't use it for this case.

All I'm saying is, don't be so quick to ignore complaints about the state of things. The world of desktop Linux could still use a lot of work.

[0] -- http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/

[1] -- http://i.imgur.com/z4dRbll.jpg

[2] -- http://i.imgur.com/FEumEXi.png

> Why is this at the top? It's obvious flame bait.

And then you took the bait!

Also Asus netbook + Ubuntu

I've found unity is a bit heavy for my poor little netbook, and have found xfce a bit better for performance.

I use Linux mint (which is based on Ubuntu) for my main dev machine. The only limitation I've had with it is video- it can't handle the goPro stuff very well.

Also ASUS netbook + Ubuntu LTS, flawless for years, to this day. Now it's mostly elementaryOS (also based off Ubuntu LTS) on every desktop/notebook, works just as well and it feels even lighter.

I've been using every LTS release since the first ever, and I can't praise it enough. Keep up the good work!

What do you think of Midori as a daily browser (assuming you didn't apt-get something else)?

I think it's a decent browser, it's only drawback is it's single-threaded.

I use Midori on Linux and IE on Windows because of the scrolling.

IIRC Firefox is doing decently with scrolling on OS X with Apple's trackpads, but it doesn't work as well with the same trackpad in elementaryOS (or with the touchscreen in Windows). Midori works perfectly.

From my experience, scrolling well is a bigger deal than how many threads it has for whether or not I like using a browser. I know there are stability advantages to the process separation, but I haven't had any trouble.

You might like Linux Lite for a netbook (based on 14.04 LTS):


Looks good- thanks for that.

I rather like the notion of Ubuntu's Unity interface. It reminds me of my favourite window manager, Window Maker, which I'm running at the moment. I recommend Ununtu to those who don't want to muck about much. Like you, I don't have time or the inclination to mess with the config files anymore. Server, yes. Desktops? They need to work pretty much out of the box anymore. This is 2014 afterall, and modern laptops and desktop boxes have support in the latest kernels, either in Linux or FreeBSD.

Linux Mint is even more friendly than Ubuntu if I'm honest. It has all the codecs, various desktop flavours, and is generally what my wife and kids prefer these days.

typing this on an HP Pavilion 15 Laptop. Installed Arch Linux, and Catalyst Drivers. works without flaw. Much better than the Windows 8 that was on the machine.

of course, I avoided Unity and went with KDE 4, because I'm not a massochist. Blue Ribbon, otherwise.

YMMV, ubuntu failed me on 3 separate laptops which ran fine with arch.

What I really loved in Ubuntu is that they were the first distribution that really considered itself an OS, not "a way to install Linux" and make choices about what it should include.

All the other distributions started by asking whether you wanted KDE or Gnome, Abiword or OpenOffice, and ended up installing a bunch of software you may or may not want "just in case". Ubuntu made choices, if you didn't like it you could always change it later on or use a different distribution but you had a consistent OS to start with.

What was always worse was that the choices never came with any explanation. I remember a while back trying some flavour of Linux or other, and during installation it asked (paraphrased):

"Use Nautilus or Thunar?"

I imagine the story behind this is that half the Linux devs preferred the first, and half preferred the second, and so instead of the distribution having the balls to choose one, they forced they choice onto the user.

For the average user however, the choice read as:

"Open Mystery Box 'A', or Mystery Box 'B'? Warning: opening the wrong box will mean that many of the things you try to do simply won't work!"

Choice here is very bad: it makes the user feel powerless, yet simultaneously assigns blame to the user in the event that things go wrong.

You may be forgetting the past of Linux distros. While Ubuntu's first version was 4.10, Distributions like Linux-Mandrake (released in July 1998) had a similar goal. They made their choices clear on what software to install and even added their own configuration applications.

Linux Mandrake started this way but didn't have the balls to stick with their choices (KDE) and quickly included the usual "do you want KDE or Gnome?" in their setup.

Just because they were afraid to restrict their market share by excluded people who liked Gnome.

Mandrake made Linux exciting immediately w/o having to do Slackware-like config file nightmares.

It's strange. I have a hard time remembering why I liked Ubuntu right away. Maybe a blend of good enough looking, works out of the box mindset, which made a community grow rapidly and kicking a nice network effect where you would quickly find solution on their board/wikis.

I was impressed later when they managed to bring new Window Management ideas without too much time or pain.

It's strange. I have a hard time remembering why I liked Ubuntu right away. ... works out of the box mindset

Ubuntu was literally the first Linux distro I have ever used where everything on my PC worked out of the box.

Installing Windows (of that age, XP) on the same PC would result in spending a day or weekend hunting and installing drivers for obscure things here and there, but in Ubuntu everything just worked.

I had never seen anything like that before (on PCs at least), and that made a solid impression which still makes it my default, despite a interest and curiosity trying in other distros like Elementary or NixOS.

It was summed up for me at the time by the joke "Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'can't install Debian'".

Their focus on getting stuff installed and working was a big deal then.

Wasn't this mostly Knoppix's accomplishment?

I believe Knoppix was the first to formalize the debian live cd concept—I don't think they did the major work for supporting hardware and supporting installation from the live cd.

I seem to remember they put a lot of early effort into getting almost all laptop wifi interfaces working out of the box, which was a massive deal at the time.

Heck, I still find that difficult if installing Debian on a laptop today. Ubuntu did so much things right, it's easy to forget all the pains it fixed.

Warty Warthog happened to match my ideal environment out-of-the-box. With Fedora, Suse I'd have to to install my preferred apps, configure Gnome the way I like, with Warty it was all already there. Also it had modern kernel with lots of stuff in it. For me specifically it was SATA support and PPTP encryption stuff.

Mandrake Linux would like a word with you.

Yeah, it is interesting reading these comments from young people. Maybe they first tried linux in the early 2000 and that's why they only remember Ubuntu.

Distributions like Linux-Mandrake, Corel Linux, Connectiva strived to make Linux a "user friendly" experience, well back before Ubuntu came to the light.

The reason why Ubuntu was a game changer was mainly because it was backed by Mark Shuttleworth, a millionary that was willing to pour a lot of money on his own Linux distribution.

I well remember mandrake - my path was Mandrake -> Debian -> Ubuntu -> Debian

I guess I'm not young anymore I suppose, I'm starting to realize I have lots of history as I've left my 20's.

I know Mandrake Linux, and I used it for some time as my main distribution. Like Ubuntu they were striving for a user-friendly distribution, but they never got the the level of consistency Ubuntu had.

Why? Because they chose KDE at the beginning, but they didn't stick with their choice and did what every other distribution did: let users choose between KDE and Gnome. And spent time to have all their tools look "kinda OK" in both desktops with cross Qt-Gtk themes, and Gnome users got a not so great experience but they kept shouting that Gnome users were just as important to them as KDE users, etc.

So in short they thought of themselves a "Linux distribution", a way to install Linux and related software. On the other hand, Ubuntu considers itself an OS, and upstream software is just a way for them to achieve the degree of quality they want.

You see that also when Ubuntu releases Unity: they want their OS to work this way, while Mandrake always focused on (1) the installer and (2) the control panel where you configure stuff, thinking "the desktop is Gnome/KDE's job, let's just ship what they make".

There was other reasons why Ubuntu worked better than Mandrake: one is that they used the superior dpkg while Mandrake was using RPM. (RPM got better recently, but back in the day it was a huge pain). Honestly I felt for many years that a user-friendly distribution based on dpkg would bring the best of both worlds, and that's what Ubuntu was.

Also Ubuntu arrived as the right time, when it was possible to have a fully plug-and-play distribution if your hardware is standard enough. I don't think they could have achieve that in the 90's.

And of course marketing. Ubuntu have been very good at marketing, and that's a good thing.

or RHEL Workstation, SUSE, etc... but point kind of stands since Ubuntu was, for some reason or the other, highly visible. Maybe those free CDs had something to do with it.

Tried a bunch of Linux distributions: Caldera, Slackware, Redhat, Mandrake, SuSE, Debian, ....

Then came Corel and I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Clean, smooth, effortless install; everything working right out of the box; all the necessary applications; professional look and feel.

Microsoft must have had its eyes on the situation as they immediately bought into Corel. The next thing you knew, Corel was history.

Ubuntu is not nearly as pleasant an experience as Corel was back then, but it just does a lot of the basic stuff right, even though it does leave a lot to be desired in terms of polish, privacy concerns, look-and-feel, usability, openness, etc.

Hopefully, Canonical attends to these issues or someone else takes the helm in improving things.

At first ubuntu pretended to offer freedom of choice then silently dropped this. Not being able to choose by myself and being unable to remove a component of the ubuntu package I had no use for is one of the reason why I removed ubuntu from the dozen computers I'm sysadmin for.

I was an Ubuntu user for a few years. I remember when they'd ship the CD's out for free. One of those things that made Ubuntu great. It was also really good at presenting a very usable Gnome 2.x desktop that was ready to use from the first boot, and I was a very happy user for a while, until they started shipping software a little bit too soon (PulseAudio for example; suddenly Ubuntu didn't have sound out-of-the-box anymore on my machine) and I've once been bitten in the behind by an update that made my video card unsupported all of a sudden, so that prevented X from starting... and then they replaced Gnome with Unity and I kind of stopped caring around that time so I went back to my previous distro. Hopefully for good. :)

Congratulations to Mark for starting this otherwise great project! May it have many years ahead of it!

Similar story. It started as a tidied up Debian fork. Then since about 12.04 LTS it turned into a tidied up Debian unstable fork with all the bugs in it. As a server only and LTS only user, I had no end of problems from there on with unstable kernels, duff and buggy packages, update roulette and terrible support.

We're on Debian 7 now and it's rock solid, relatively bug free in comparison and the support is good. Just where I want it to be.

The best outcome for me was that it caused Debian to rethink their release cycles a bit.

Totally agree. After 11.x, Ubuntu's "desktop" uses crashed for me and many I know.

Yup, the free CDs is what I remember as the first thing about Ubuntu - and the fact that it worked out of the box.

There is a fun story as well: We were in college (in India) at the time and my friend went ahead and ordered 100 CD's or so (they actually encouraged it at the time for distribution). The package arrived at the local Post Office after a few weeks and he was asked to go collect it, which seemed strange. Anyways, he went and to his wonder was told to pay import duty on it by the customs! He argued for a while saying it was educational material and that it was being shipped for free - to no avail. He finally gave up and asked them to keep it for themselves and walked out.

In the end, they chased after him before he left the premises and gave it to him - no import duty, nothing.

I got my CD from this set. :)

Nothing has changed. Indian Customs vies for most corrupt in the world. They also have crazy high duty on electronics. Many software companies in India have offices that are "bonded warehouses", meaning that the computers have not had the duty paid on them and cannot legally be removed from the premise.

Source; I work in the Global Trade Management

So does that tactic work because the computers are "in-transit"? What happens upon end of life? Do they need to ship the computers out of country?

Normally when something is in a bonded warehouse it's a storage-only situation. Looking online I can't find anything about indian special cases where this works differently, just the ordinary "store goods here until you sell them, and pay the duty then".

It's not just indian customs - a friend of mine has had similar stories with Canadian Customs and free software. Customs exists to get money out of its citizens, I've had trouble with American Customs too.

Every update was a lesson in frustration. So I thought either I'm stying on LTS or I use another distribution.

Right now I am using Debian stable for my "it has to run" systems (the ones my gf is using too) and tried Arch on the other systems.

So far I am pretty much sold on Arch linux (my Linux knowledge got better too) - but I still don't know if I'm just using Debian stable for things like my HTPC.

I've had Ubuntu as my primary desktop for about a decade and the regression issue is my biggest one, especially with three monitors. Fortunately it takes me far less time to go from non-booting desktop to something usable these days, but I think that can be chalked up to practice more than improvement. That said, for the most part it continues to run smoothly, provided I wait about a month or two after each release before upgrading. Otherwise, I remain a fan - including Unity.

I started using Ubuntu from 8.04 when Windows crashed on my first personal laptop. When I saw 11.10 Netbook Edition with Unity I viewed it as something which would be geared towards touchscreens with limited advantages otherwise. So after briefly trying desktop unity in 12.04 I switched my development machine to Fedora with Xfce and XMonad. Now I only use Ubuntu on the occasional virtual machine for testing, but I may try running it on my touch ultrabook some day.

Remember those CDs! I was finishing my primary school that time and couldn't even download ISO (used dial-up modem, aproximately 1000 times slower than my current connection) or install, because looking for driver was painful), but Linux stayed in the back of my mind. Similary to you, now I don't care much what Canonical does.

Exaclty same thing happened to me. I saw Unity, tried to put gnome back. I got fustrated. I formatted and installed my later distro.

Happy ever after.

I was a Debian developer for a while, but gradually ran out of time for it, and eventually went with Ubuntu as my desktop and server OS.

By and large, I'm very happy with it, although I wish they'd sink a bit more time into avoiding regressions than trying to create new things.

I like the predictable release schedule, and the fact that it's a bit more focused than Debian.

Yet, underneath it's still all (almost at least) free software that I can hack on if needs be.

These days I use Xubuntu, with Xfce, because that's a bit more to my liking as a desktop: focus follows mouse is not something I care to do without.

May I ask what you are missing from Debian as a desktop ?

I went from Ubuntu minimal to Debian (stable, nonetheless),tiling wm for me, gnome for friends and guests, and found Debian easier to maintain (for me and my friends whose computers I manage).

I must say I feel Debian's desktop experience is really top notch and crosses all the check marks of what a desktop is supposed to do (for me at least) and so I don't really see what is gained from switching from Debian to Ubuntu regarding desktop features.

> May I ask what you are missing from Debian as a desktop ?

When I switched, Debian was in the process of taking 3 years to go from woody to sarge. After that it would be another 5 before etch.

I'm sure Debian makes a fine desktop these days. I could definitely see switching back at some point.

I do like that there is someone who takes decisions Ubuntu; I think that streamlines things in some ways. Debian can get into pretty long and involved flames/discussions about things. Sometimes good comes of it, sometimes it just distracts people from putting out a good OS.

I went down the same path when Ubuntu's appearance suddenly made Debian look slow and outdated. Now I have been back on Debian for a few years and it just feels better - Debian has come a long way... I believe that Ubuntu's mere existence gave it a good jolt !

Yeah, a better release schedule helps. I recall Debian servers from 'back in the day' where you'd start accumulating all this stuff from unstable because you started needing something that wasn't 4 years old, and then it would have dependencies, and so on. It could get a bit messy.

>> May I ask what you are missing from Debian as a desktop ?

> When I switched, Debian was in the process of taking 3 years to go from woody to sarge. After that it would be another 5 before etch.

It's true that I remember being unable to properly manage my installed Debians at the time Ubuntu first came out and only fully committed to using Debian on desktop some months before Wheezy actually came out. So I was delighted to see modern packages when upgrading to wheezy.

It does look like I switched at the right time.

Canonical went on a binge hiring Debian developers, which is a reason why these releases took so long.

One thing that's lacking is out-of-the-box audio. Granted, I do have to install Nvidia drivers to get competent video, however there are numerous guides for that, and it's not entirely necessary.

Audio, on the other hand, remains a mystery to me. It just didn't work and there was nowhere for me to turn for help.

So, before I knew what linux was (and was teased on various forums) I ordered some free CD's from Ubuntu. (I didn't have the internet at home). (eventually I got them; ubuntu 5.04 I think [Horny Hedgehog from memory])

When I received them I was pleased, everything worked.. well, not everything, but it sorta worked! I had a desktop environment and a command line and I felt a small sense of accomplishment because I'd navigated the strange menu's safely before anakonda or full-framebuffer installers

Because of the peer pressure I learned about how to do my bits, and I carried on.

Later in the year I found fedora, and Blue is a nicer colour than brown (I was young and fickle) but it was less user friendly, so I committed to learn that and get off the "Noob Friendly" Ubuntu OS.

Many years later I got a small laptop for my mother, at this stage in my life I was "awoken" and I knew the power a machine could hold if it ran linux, so I put ubuntu on it- She's not the most technically apt lady in the world but was able to do most things with ease, and I put that down to having a "Good UX outside microsoft" (since most people who learn the microsoft way are generally committed to a mindset and anything outside of that is pushed away).

A few issues with Flash, some performance hiccups on some websites that seemed to try and avoid supporting linux in strange ways (that I take for granted I know how to bypass) and eventually the machine gave up the ghost.

I bought a new machine and put ubuntu on it (13.10 I think) and she was somewhat less than pleased, the UX had changed, she didn't know what was available anymore, nothing was organised in a way she understood.. and so I installed mint, she's now happy.

So I'll say this for Ubuntu, they put linux in the hands of people who we should really be targetting, it allowed me access to linux acting as a base plate and later acting as a full blown system for someone who was not interested at all in computers. And they pushed a trend for that, so we should all be thankful.

A follow on from this story and many moons after my "fickle" switch to Fedora/RHEL.

At this point in my life I'd been involved in a half dozen large companies and used linux on enormous scale.

I moved to a company that was using ubuntu LTS (10.04) (old at the time) in production, it was heavily invested and I expected that wouldn't change as Developers were very hesitant to change to debian (which is too old/doesn't make things easy enough) or centos/RHEL which suffers the same issues and has the added benefit of having SELinux (which I'm an advocate of understanding rather than disabling).

I go through my daily security advisories and a local privilege escalation means all our virtual machines and virtual machine hosts are affected, luckily it's patched as 10.04 is still supported so I apt-get update;apt-get upgrade and send out an email saying the server will be down for 30 minutes while it receives patches.

I was wrong, it was down for 6 hours.

unfortunately someone upsteam caused that particular kernel update to rebuild all initramfs' on the machine, and had also named lvm2 to lvm, so now my drives wouldn't mount.

On any kernel version/initramfs version

normally you can drop to shell load the module, mount the drives and continue startup, but unfortunately that stopped a lot of things from loading such as the bonding we had in place on the nics.

obviously I didn't know why it broke at the time and was attempting to get help from #ubuntu on freenode.

the response was "Sometimes it's better not to know why it broke"

that server was smoothly running CentOS before I left that company.

So in my opinion support and enterprise is where it falls down.

> [Horny Hedgehog from memory]

I started with the same release myself. It was called "Hoary Hedgehog"[1], but I like your version too.

[1] http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/releases/hoary/

For me the biggest thing about Ubuntu is that it does not feel like a distribution. It's an OS. They don't just pack others stuff inside one image and call it a day. Ubuntu does things in a way that they feel is the correct way. If there is a suitable OSS package for that, great. If not, then they make it. Fedora, Debian and others just gather what's there and ship it. AFAIK Elementary OS is the only other distro that works kinda like Ubuntu, but it looks like an OSX clone.

Elementary does look like OSX, but I wouldn't judge them negatively for that. I've been using the distro for a while and I'm quite happy with it.

As a mac user that gets nervous when Apple announces new OS X versions, I'm glad there are linux users out there keeping the principles that make OS X great alive. If OS X ever goes too iOS / iCloud for me to bare, I hope Elementary is waiting for me with the same attention to detail, stability, and ease of use that god me hooked on OS X.

Same thing here.

There's gotta be a lot of OSX users like me who'd switch in a heartbeat given better laptop options. I know they're getting better, but it still isn't that close.

I ditched Windows back in 2006 and it was a close run thing between Ubuntu and OSX, but I had just started a family and the combination of iPhoto and iMovie was a big draw to OSX. Also, again due to above said family, I didn't have the time to spend tinkering and configuring things. I needed something that worked right out of the box, and would keep working. That machine finally packed in a few months ago and time machine backups saved my arse twice in that time.

Back in 2006 Linux on the desktop looked like it might eventually break through and become a mainstream option. Now I don't think so. The commercial desktop OSes, particularly OSX, are pulling ahead technologically in ways Linux can't match fast enough to stay relevent. Apple can do in one or two yearly updates what would take a Linux distro 5 years or more to match. The main opening is against Windows, which is struggling to get back to providing a useable basic desktop. Yet even with MS shooting their own feet off every other release, the Linux desktop still isnt getting any mainstream traction.

It's really very depressing. I remember 2009 being declared the year of the Linux desktop. 15 years later that looks as far away from coming true as ever. I might have to buy a retina iMac to cheer myself up.

I remember 2009 ...

WARNING: Do not touch the repo until you've had more coffee ;)

Indeed. Please subtract one decade. I shall leave my error in place as a pennance.

Actually did the math on the trends here, and naively extrapolating it seems that the year of Linux on the desktop is around 2050. In the meantime we have Steam, AAA games and 1.16% market share now, according to Steam Hardware Survey. That's a third of what OSX does!

Actually that's fairly impressive and a great sign, but I suspect most Mac users get their games from the Mac App store while Linux gamers are more likely to know steam even exists. So I doubt it tells us very much about the actual number of games and gamers on Mac Vs Linux.

A lot of Canonicalers are getting the Dell XPS 15. It's practically a macbook clone. The main difference is the battery life - with the smaller battery it's like 3.5 hours, bigger battery is like 5 hours. But that's with a quad Core i7, and 16 GB of RAM. I'm super happy with mine. I think most of the difference in battery life is just software at this point... Apple definitely has some magic sauce in there.

I've heard good things about the XPS.

I travel a lot though. I prefer 13" and last time I looked, I found very little that supported 16GB. Also, again, with the traveling, battery life is huge.

This might also sound lame, but I also hate the badges. I saw that the XPS 15 only has the single intel badge. I'd rather have 0...it really grates me the wrong way (not just on laptops, WTF do I want "Samsung" printed in white on the bottom of my TV?)

I have the 13" XPS. The size and weight of it are really good for traveling. The battery life is not very good. I get maybe 3 hours on it in Linux. There might be some settings that need to be tweaked to get more life out of it. Also the WiFi on the device, even in Windows 8, sucks. The connection drops quite frequently and some AP it will not connect to. The computer is only a year old, so the new ones might be better now.

You know it's just a sticker, right? :) I always take all stickers off my laptops.

But, yes, I wish the XPS 13 had a 16GB option.

They're also specially controlled stickers, some with holograms, meant to suggest that the hardware inside is legit. Kind of like new NBA hats. You can remove those too.

What we need is for Canonical to release their own laptops where they support the entire hardware+software combo. Canonical Nexus, please?

Any other company with their own Linux distro and hardware would also work, I guess. I really like Unity, though.

The Nexus model chooses a manufacturer and then works with them to create the current year's creation. I'm not sure Canonical has enough resource or leverage to do that.

That said, I'd love to see an Apple-esque model where I could point to 3 laptops each year and say "large, medium, and small" and know that they would work completely with zero fussing.

Maybe Canonical could start down this road by refitting their devs with new laptops on an annual cycle and saying, "these are the laptops we will be using this year."

I'm a NetBSD-to-Apple switcher (circa 2003) who has a fair bit of ambient familiarity with Ubuntu as his auxiliary OS. I don't run any proprietary system beyond what comes bundled with OS X nowadays. I could switch to Ubuntu for day-to-day work and be perfectly content.

I can say that the SOLE factor of why I haven't has everything to do with not finding a rival to my MacBook Air 11". Part of that may be there simply isn't a comparable machine. But part of that may be that the hassle of searching for alternatives is simply too great.

There is the Dell XPS 13 developer edition which comes from Dell with Ubuntu... ThinkPads work great with Ubuntu (at least the T, X, and W series), I've been using a T530 for a few years now and every single function key, the fingerprint reader, absolutely every feature it has works. And of course there are a few boutique manufacturers that ship Linux systems.

I'm sure other laptops work great with Ubuntu but these are the ones I'm familiar with...

I use one of the boutique systems (the ZaReason UltraLap) as my work laptop and like it a lot, but when my home laptop started to give up the ghost for the fourth or fifth time (a 6-year old Dell Inspiron 1525), I realized that for home use I need the secondary parts market to be active. I fix computers that break (the Inspiron is on its second motherboard, third power board, and the screen and backlight inverter of someone else's 1525 that they were throwing out.) The ThinkPad T430 is cheap enough that it often undercuts the boutiques, but I'm not locked out of ebaying for a new power board.

Well, a big benefit of Canonical selling it's own hardware is that they could use the price of the hardware to pay for OS work.

System76 [0] has launched its business in this area: taking a hardware, tuning Ubuntu to work out of the box on it, and supporting it. You get the assurance that your system will just work.

I haven't tried them but I hope they have good business doing what seems to be the real solution here.

[0] https://system76.com

Yeah, but they don't ship with international keyboards and Canonical don't test on System76 hardware in any special way, so it can break on any upgrade.

That definitely describes me. There is no program I run on my MBA that I can't run on Linux (or a just as good equivalent) and I don't even particularly like OSX, but the whole OSX on an MBA package is hard to beat.

Asus Zenbook UX* line. Only thing that does not work out of the box with Ubuntu is ambient light sensor. Light, powerful, good (not awesome) battery life (4-5 hours), excellent display, ... Also Lenovo X1 Carbon, but the latest model comes with dumbest keyboard ever.

Battery's important. I'm aware of the keyboard issue on the Carbon. It worries me that they still have trackpad and keyboard issues in 2014. The X1 isn't the only one.

They keyboard sucks because of design, not Linux - see:


I love my 1st gen; it's really depressing that they did this.

It's not a matter of "still" - the original X1 Carbon was fine. Lenovo fucked up on the second iteration.

I have a Dell XPS 13 developer edition that came preinstalled with Ubuntu. It's almost as good as a Mac; it's light, it has good battery life, a nice 1920x1080 screen. Things lacking compared to MacBook air: no Thunderbolt (though does the Air have it?), the trackpad isn't made of glass and doesn't feel as good as a Macbook one, but it's reasonably close (and buttonless).

All in all, it's an acceptable Mac alternative for me.

The Sputnik? Only available in limited countries -- not mine (at the time I was looking, or now) which is an absolute deal breaker. There also wasn't a 16GB option (also not for the air, but there is for the 13" rMBP) and the real-world battery life is 2-3 hours worse than the air or rMBP.

I'm not saying it's a bad laptop, but I am saying it isn't as good. And the select country thing is a joke.

> (though does the Air have it?)

Yeah. I've got the MBA 11" with it.

How good is good battery? My MBA is the first device where I'll take it out for a full day's work without thinking of bringing my power adaptor.

Unity sucks battery like there's no tomorrow; with Unity I'd say 5 to 8 hours, but with windowmaker and light low, I'd 7 to 9 hours is doable.

Eh. I use both on a very regular basis, for years. Ubuntu on my netbook and OSX on my desktop.

OSX is just a slicker environment. If I wasn't committed to a tiny form factor with my netbook, I'd go all Apple products.

This isn't entirely their fault. There are quite a few Macbook components that are closed source and don't even function correctly in Windows.

I think he means any laptop, period, not just Ubuntu running on a Macbook. Once you're used to having a POSIX OS that's pretty much perfectly integrated on a device with 16GB+, HiDPI display and extremely good touchpad, it's just hard to settle for Ubuntu on a Dell/HP/Lenovo IMO. So far i couldn't find anything that matches Retina display quality (including software support, which is just as important as the hardware). If I could, I'd probably switch to Linux as well.

I don't have a "Retina" laptop but I have a 4k monitor and GNOME3/Unity have really nice HiDPI support now. Anything else is going to be hit and miss. I pretty much only use ThinkPads and haven't had any issues, but there are some things you need to manually to get the most out of it (like installing ThinkFan and laptop_mode).

I think it's less to do with OS and more to do with laptop screens somewhat regressing over a period of 10 years until Apple come out with Retina. New laptops will come out with better screens, open source will be written and the experience will be competitive. I blame manufacturers way more than the Linux ecosystem for this.

Given how ubiquitous Apple laptop hardware is, and how few models there are, I've never quite understood why Canonical hasn't invested more into a goal of ensuring perfect operation on Apple hardware. Maybe they have, and there are simply limits to what they can achieve.

I sure do wish there were a not-obviously-inferior alternative to the OSX/Apple stack that ran Linux.

We don't have any Apple hardware on our Certification list:


In fact, no Linux distribution has ever had Apple hardware certified.

If it's not certified it means that the vendor is not working with the Linux distribution. At that point it's a case where the distribution's developers and Open Source developers spend their time having to run after the hardware with bad information and experimentation.

It's not a particularly worthwhile 'investment' to make.

If you want to run Ubuntu well you should use certified hardware. Also note that when you buy certified or preloaded hardware you signal to the vendor that there is a market for Linux - everyone who buys a Dell XPS with Ubuntu preloaded signals to the market that supporting Ubuntu (and therefore wider Linux) is important.

Thank you for the thoughtful response. I can understand the difficulties in trying to support a hardware platform that doesn't want to play, especially when firmware updates could make it a moving target.

I went through the Ubuntu Certification list when I purchased my current laptop about a year ago. At that time (and now), there simply aren't any options that appear to be in the same category as an MBA 11". I would like to somehow signal the market that supporting Ubuntu is important, but the hardware manufacturers need to make hardware I want. You guys make software I want--it's a hardware problem now.

I just run Ubuntu on a retina macbook. It's pretty easy to set up, if you use http://www.rodsbooks.com/refind/ as a boot manager (the Linux kernel has built-in EFI support these days), and the hardware support has been quite good in my experience.

> better laptop options

I use Ubuntu on a HP EliteBook Folio 1040. It's relatively nice hardware. The touchpad cannot really do middle click, but I always use external mouse, so I don't care.

I am sure ThinkPad T440s would be a nice machine, too.

I tried T440s exactly for 3 days and sent it back! Lenovo just screwed their trackpoint/trackpad experience (and part of keyboard as well). The virtual buttons do not work on Linux out of the box. Had to buy a refurbished T430s, with which I'm quite happy - only the battery time is really bad, I get just 2 hours on Linux.

> I am sure ThinkPad T440s would be a nice machine, too.

It is, except the touchpad (which i don't use anyway)

As an Ubuntu user since 10.04, what I would really like to see is Ubuntu matching or beating Windows/OS X with regards to battery life. When I first installed 10.04, my ubuntu setup actually beat Windows Vista in battery life and stability. Then 10.10 came out with serious power regressions (related to kernel regressions, Unity, etc.) - which I still blame from killing my battery.

Since then, Windows 7 and 8 have gotten more stable and better battery life while Ubuntu has struggled to keep up. With 14.04, Ubuntu is better (finally with basic support for NVIDIA PRIME)but has yet to catch up with Windows.

Seriously, Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu devs, if you are reading:- Ubuntu is promoting global warming and creation of electronic waste with its current actions. Forget the features and fluff for now - Fix the battery issues and make sure things just work.

Thank you Ubuntu for all the great work you guys have done for Linux over the last 10 years. Still love you.

Battery life is why I don't use Linux more. Even with monkeying around in the system, those Linux drivers suck up a lot of juice.

Have you tried TLP out?

No. I would like to, when I get the time (Also powertop -http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=ubuntu_14... )

But thats the point. Lot of us depend on our computer for work and don't have the time to fiddle with lot of error-prone settings.

This is why Linux users have been migrating to OS X for years. Deep down, we are all idealistic hackers who would love for FOSS, and open-source to win, and give the finger to big brother, but we also need to put food on our tables.

Canonical lately has been chasing unicorns and leprechauns to find the Next Big Thing (never mind that they are late to mobile, tablet, and even unified interfaces). Canonical is right that mobile is the future. Mobile first of all includes laptops, tablets , phone. And the basic requirement for a successful mobile platform is battery life.

I like Ubuntu, we use (LTS releases) at work and it's been very stable and easy to maintain. It's also by far the most popular Linux distro for a lot's of reasons. Although i rarely use it at home (switched to OSX) I still keep myself updated and try every release. Imho i feel they should get more in the "latest technologies" bandwagon like they did a few years before Unity (for those who remember Ubuntu pushed always the latest GNOME releases with the latest technologies developed by RedHat and get it right even before Fedora) and upstart in order to not cause more fragmentation on the Linux desktop. Let's take Unity example: First was desktop on top of GTK2 which looked and worked better than gnome-shell. Then the transition of GNOME3 started and now GNOME was able to get a ecosystem of applications that fit's on GNOME not Unity, so currently GNOME apps don't fit on Unity desktop and even gnome-shell perhaps it's more useful than Unity. Same for upstart: It started as an new modern init system but then systemd came out and become the standard in Linux (or at least it's trying to). Now Ubuntu is migrating to systemd because their init system never gained traction. Not to mention the manpower they invested and now they don't get any result out of it. I fear the same will happen with MIR since it will NOT become the standard on Linux like Wayland.

For the future I hope Canonical don't pull the plug on Desktop and Server (which is also very popular) and give it's users the choice of using Wayland, GNOME, X11, systemd, XFCE, LXDE or other technologies instead of the "home made" technologies. Also let's hope for more bright 10 years ahead trying to get Linux Desktop in the right direction giving people a choice between Operating Systems.

I've had a play with Ubuntu on the Nexus 5. I don't think it's a daily driver for me yet, but I'm excited and they look like they are working hard to get there. Can't wait.

"Linux for human beings" sounds like an oxymoron to me, after 5+ years of tinkering with Linux on the desktop.

After years of Ubuntu (and Arch, Debian, Mint etc.) I'm not ashamed to say I'm really happy on OS X. Less customisation and more time to focus on actual work/leisure.

I only wish more people did this and didn't force standardization on the rest of us who need customization.

I'm on Ubuntu, I haven't customized anything except the background color of the terminal :) And this from someone who was a developer on Windows for 14+ years.

Ubuntu is really user-friendly... until you are having any kind of non-trivial problem, which can happen to anyone if they are unlucky with their drivers, the sound doesn't work, etc.. Then you are relegated to copying command line gobbledygook from askubuntu into the terminal, being able to understand nothing about what it does. At least with those tedious "click on X, then on Y when that pops up"... you're able to understand the gist of what you're doing.

I'm a programmer so I've become somewhat accustomed to working with the command line. But it's hardly a nice user interface for most people.

I have similar experiences, but on the whole still prefer Ubuntu to any other computing experience I've had before. Keyboard issues have been my most recent timesink. Setting up a udev rule for my keyboard (unicomp with trackball, needs some xinput commands run when it gets plugged in) took a long time. That is one brittle grammar with very unhelpful debugging tools. And they got rid of XKBOPTION altwin_swap_lalt_lwin a couple of years ago, patching that back in was messy and there's a good chance I'm going to forget what I need to do to fix things up next time I have to set up a new system.

Even with all the problems I perennially run into I wouldn't be able to setup my input devices and working environment _just so_ with another operating system, so I'm stuck with this junk!

The trade-off is that usually you will always find a solution in the end. On the other hand, for a long time the standard advice for dealing with an opaque technical issue under Windows has been "reformat and reinstall".

I would estimate (from a relatively well-informed position) that about half the serious issues that users face are due to hardware interactions. You'll remember that a few years ago the famous example was WIFI chip-sets.

The reality for the distributions is that if there is good support from the component manufacturer and the OEM then you can provide a good user-experience. We put massive effort into enablement with manufacturers such as Dell, HP and Lenovo [1].

As a user the best thing you can do is to buy hardware with components that will work. In the old days that used to mean looking at hardware component and comparing them to whether they worked with Linux. Now we have certification sites.

The second sort of problem is the general end-user issues. I actually think that Ubuntu is beyond the point where you need to open the command line for normal end-user activities. The big weakness there is that there's no equivalent of the 'Genius Bar' for Linux users.

[1] http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/

I guess I was lucky in that installing Ubuntu on my Acer mostly just worked. I had some problems, which were not easy to figure out as a Linux rookie, but some help from forums and installation of some proprietary drivers were enough to give as good of an experience for casual use as I was having on Windows.

Since I installed Ubuntu initially out of necessity, I never really had the time to consider whether my hardware would be supported or not.

That doesn't really sound like "enough".

What do you mean by enough?

I'm dead sure the beginning of your post read differently a while ago.

I didn't edit the beginning of the post, if that's what you mean?

I'm sorry, I must have inserted something mentally then. Please ignore my comment. Thanks.

As someone who's current phone is more powerful than his laptop, I am really looking forward to seeing what Ubuntu Touch can deliver.

I love, love Unity; I love keyboard shortcuts for getting things done quickly, and Unity's keyboard shortcuts are intuitive and cover just about everything. And the visual design is beautiful.

...I just know that if the average person could walk into their Best Buy and get a Windows laptop for $X and an Ubuntu version of that laptop for slightly less, we'd see Ubuntu everywhere. One can dream.

I tried to switch from Windows to Ubuntu multiple times but I go back to Windows each time.

I have mainly 2 issues:

- Upgrade to newer version always fails. I'm left with a broken OS at the end.

- Although the UI has improved a lot since the early days of Ubuntu, I still don't like it. I know I can customize it but it always causes issues on some apps.

I've been upgrading my laptop through 6 releases (it's 3 years old), and never had a single failure.

Do you use the provided upgrade path? It's very surprising to me to hear that - we test upgrades pretty thoroughly.

Disclaimer: I work for Canonical.

I've had to rebuild with a new OS install twice. I've run Ubuntu for probably... crap, is it 10 years now?

It usually coincided with a oh-well-might-as-well-upgrade decision...

At least one was a two major version upgrade. But still.

That's weird. Nobody I know has ever made a successful Ubuntu version upgrade. There was literally no case where nothing broke. I resigned; I will make a clean new install if I want a new version.

I know this is not the proper way to register a bug, but there's a problem when installing 14.04 on a UEFI motherboard that does not have Secure Boot. The installer just assumes there's Secure Boot on and the bootloader gets misconfigured.

> - Upgrade to newer version always fails. I'm left with a broken OS at the end.

I'm pretty sure that this is an issue of having a more sophisticated package management.

OS X and Windows are basically huge software bundles that are dropped on a drive. They rarely change their internal structure gradually (Windows takes an odd middleground of basically keeping all patches around). It's a well understood process and easy to reason about: copy bunch of data A to location B, make sure it matches a checksum. Ship some parts in double in different versions, to support older versions. All the issues I ever had with that were with all the packages software I handbuilt on top of that.

OSes fully built on packaging software from ground up, e.g. apt, rely on the assumption that the package tree is always problem-free and that you can migrate any custom evolution of that tree to a new standard version. While this works formidably for smaller changes (I just want to add a package), where the potential breakage is contained to a rather limited set of packages, possibly close to the leafs of the tree, this gets problematic if you want to change a package on the top of the tree.

I think this gives a lot of power to the approach of immutable machines, combining both approaches: fine-grained dependency-tracking and resolution, while avoiding the evolutionary problems by always rebuilding the system from ground up on any change.

FWIW: I love a proper package management. But I don't believe in its infallibility.

> > Upgrade to newer version always fails. I'm left with a broken OS at the end.

> I'm pretty sure that this is an issue of having a more sophisticated package management.

I'm pretty sure that it's Ubuntu. My understanding is that Debian—from which Ubuntu is derived and which is also apt-based—is known for reliable upgrades.

It's part of why I've standardised on Debian.

Actually - it's the relative user-bases and the complexity of the user-cases.

An APT based system is capable of a system upgrade - but you have to help the system. The previous commenter is completely right that one of the underlying assumptions is that the package database is clean.

This applies to both Ubuntu and Debian.

The main challenges for Ubuntu is that there is a lot of ISV software out there which can break as it's not part of the distribution [0], end-users tend to run a variety of PPA's [1] and in general they don't realise the importance of the package database[2] and the classes of hardware that Ubuntu is used on means that driver upgrades can be complex. Actually, if you use Ubuntu's documented upgrade process it runs a variety of checks which standard apt doesn't.

I suppose that with fast Net connections and cheap disks upgrades aren't as needed as they used to be - but they're still one of the best bits of 'magic' I enjoy from the Ubuntu/Debian world.

[0] The counter-point being that end-users want that software e.g. Skype [1] PPA's are great for end-users as they get to mix stable system software with the latest 'apps' but they cause problems for upgrades because you can't possibly test the variety of upgrade paths [1] You can argue that they shouldn't have to - but that's a different matter.

Hey, this was a worthwhile read. Thanks!

If you're fine with upgrading only every few years with Windows, you should be fine doing the same with Ubuntu - so just stick with the LTS and you'll have less problems. Also avoid adding third-party repositories, they can really break stuff if they replace key packages.

Considering the UI it's mostly a habit thing, personally I've never used Windows on my own computer for about 15 years and it's really a pain for me to use it each time I have to.

Ubuntu got popular during the 3 year period between Debian Woody and Sarge. I think many Debian users jumped ship because they got bored of waiting for a new release so a new distro that was basically Debian but up to date was welcome.

The joke around that time was that Debian was either obsolete or unstable.

> Like it or not, Ubuntu or whatever your OS of choice is does have root access to your machine. Not literally of course, but it's effective access given that their code is running with root privileges on your machine and chances are you haven't reviewed it lately. You trust your distro to make sure that code is secure, stable, and acting in your best interests.

Actually, I trust that of the millions of Ubuntu users, there is at least one person who would sound the alarm if Canonical had slipped spyware into their distribution (as, of course, people did about the absurd Amazon lens). Free software means trusting the public at large to audit the software rather than trusting the software's producer.

If Ubuntu is not avail now, then I have to go payment course for learning Windows

Ubuntu is pure white box to learn. I am enjoying it from my college life where I just touched the computer initially, then immediately ubuntu was loaded.

I love that it's becoming so common. I don't use Ubuntu personally but I think it is a great "first experience" with Linux.

I have an ambivalent relationship with Ubuntu. Personally, I hate Ubuntu but I'm glad it exists. It means a few more people who otherwise would have used Windows, don't. I keep coming back to Slackware because it's in a nice sweet spot where "stable", "just works", "lets me configure it just the way I want" and "doesn't bother me with needless distro-specific cruft" all intersect. So Ubuntu is definitely not for me. For the people it is for, it does a pretty good job.

One of the main reasons Ubuntu got popular (compared to other distros) on Sri Lanka because they shipped free CDs. Lots of people in Sri Lanka didn't have Cable or DSL internet connections by that time. It was limited to a smaller area of the country - even when people had it, it was 512kbps.

No one was going to bother download a huge distro DVD to try out a new OS. However, when you get a CD, you tend to try it out. The smooth installation process certainly helped a lot.

I actually think Ubuntu has done wonders to enhance the usability of debian out of the box. We've come so far in 10 years, when I first used debian, I had to write an X config by hand, now thats all automatic, its so much easier to use. I stopped using Ubuntu even though I was an early adopter, and went back to debian, but the development downstream of debian has clearly from my point of view rolled back up hill.

This article overlook a few facts of history such as ubuntu actively trying to poach debian devs in an attempt to take over debian, or the fact that packages were out of date for 6 months and that the upgrade process from one version to the other often ended in a reinstall from scratch. Not to mention the numerous things that kept breaking (video drivers, pulseaudio and so on).

I'm on arch linux with kde. I tried ubuntu several times, but I can't stick with it. The installation is a breeze, but for the rest it's not that exiting. Btw, I consider myself as a human being too!

Still, I am very happy with the existence of Ubuntu, helping millions of people moving away from Windows and OSX. This is a huge boost for the development of software for linux.

I remember when I firs tried Ubuntu 10.4 [0] and forum acquaintances were teasing me about it because there were no MP3 support out of the box. `What distro doesn't include that ?`. Well, it certainly was way easier to install and run than the RedHat from those days (but the handbook was.. there actually was a handbook at least).

[0] edited

I've been trying various distros for 15 years now and pretty much stopped at Ubuntu.

Every week I used to visit http://distrowatch.com/ and look for a new distro to try. I liked Mint and #! too, but Ubuntu gave me the most consistent experience with the best repositories.

I used Ubuntu in 2004 right when I started college as a comp-sci student. It was the only distro that worked with my laptop with very minimal effort. I also love the package management (though Brew on OSX is a close second).

Great read, thanks for sharing!

I am still unhappy with wifi detection/configuration and problems with Compiz. But overall, I agree, Ubuntu is getting better.

> By Canonical's estimates, Ubuntu has roughly 90 percent of the Linux market.

Wat? Seriously? How is this measured?

I'm surprised they didn't bring up shuttering Ubuntu One cloud service.

I have transferred from Ubuntu to Mint recently.

Ubuntu has been going backwards for at least two years.... - Unity doesn't seem to improve, and just further fractures and balkanizes the linux desketop - They dropped the installation versions where I can do software RAID setup... all my desktops are RAID0 dual HDD and SSD OS/swap/boot. - Ubuntu desktops have been getting slower as I upgrade my hardware, not faster.

OSX has maddening keyboard shortcuts, and Windows is committing suicide.

With the excess cores, GPU power, huge disk space, virtualization, and other advancements, I should be able to seamlessly run several OSs at once. There is such amazing potential out there, but it is pretty clear that Canonical is now just putting minimal resources into Ubuntu.

It still mystifies me that Google didn't make a seriously good desktop distribution on par with OSX to destroy the windows monopoly. Instead... ChromeOS?

You can still install Ubuntu on a RAID0 or 1 mdadm device (I did so on a couple SSDs). You just have to use the Ubuntu Server iso instead of the Desktop one, and follow a few more steps:


Google doesn't want the desktop to exist at all. The last thing a big advertising company wants is power users.

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