Over the past few years Ubuntu has become somewhat divided from the rest of the Linux community and it could easily be renamed “Linux Marmite,” as you either love it or hate it.
A number of reasons are often cited for disliking Ubuntu. Top of the list seems to be Unity. I maintain that Unity is a really good desktop environment. I spent some time working with it and I find it incredibly intuitive but my view of Unity is in the minority. I think that people coming to Linux for the first time and choosing Ubuntu as their distribution of choice will probably not be as put off by the experience as users that were brought up on Gnome 2.
Collaboration and the spirit of togetherness also appears to be a reason to dislike Ubuntu and the MIR-versus-Wayland argument seems to have made the divide between Linux user and Ubuntu user even greater. From a Linux user’s point of view though, why do we care whether Ubuntu uses MIR and whether all other distributions use Wayland? As a user of an operating system, do I care how the windows are displayed on the screen? Surely as long as they work properly then there isn’t a problem.
Wayland versus MIR is surely an issue for software developers, not for people who use the software. Most users who move to Linux from Windows aren’t going to care about MIR or Wayland. The graphical desktop is either going to work or it isn’t; they aren’t going to care about the display server that the desktops sit on top of. If the desktop doesn’t work, then the user is either going to try another Linux distribution or they are going to revert back to Windows.
Ubuntu 13.10 is just around the corner but what if Ubuntu ceased to exist?
Nobody can deny that Ubuntu has lifted the profile of Linux from a geek’s plaything to an operating system that the average grandmother can use. Looking at the top 50 distributions at Distrowatch, the following distributions are based on Ubuntu:
- Linux Lite
- Ubuntu GNOME
- Ubuntu Studio
The fact that so many distributions base themselves on Ubuntu must show that Ubuntu has good qualities as well as bad. Ubuntu has a high profile outside the Linux world. It has the best installer, great repositories, a great community, great forums, a huge user base, it is stable, forward thinking and is truly innovative.
If after failing with the Ubuntu Edge campaign it was suddenly announced that Canonical were withdrawing funding what would happen? Would Linux be crippled forever? The answer is clearly no. Linux was around before Ubuntu and it will be around long after Ubuntu ceases to exist. Each and every one of the distributions above could base themselves on Debian. Given that Ubuntu is going down the MIR route, many of the distributions may well decide to do this.
If there were no Ubuntu then there would be a large hole left behind. All users thinking of giving up Windows for Linux would need a new go-to system.
If Canonical removed funding from Ubuntu it would undoubtedly continue as a community distribution and it would probably find itself blending back in with the rest of the Linux world. I believe that if Ubuntu failed and disappeared, another distribution would spring up and fill the void that Ubuntu left behind and it would become popular, be hated for it, start causing its own divisions and the same arguments would rage on.
Ubuntu. You either love it or hate it. I love it. Without Ubuntu there would be dozens fewer distributions to review.
Gary Newell is 38 years old and lives with his wife and 3 children in the North East of Scotland. His blog, Everyday Linux User, a top ten finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition, provides news, reviews and how-tos about Linux for the average ordinary everyday Linux user.
I for one have nothing against Unity or Ubuntu….I applaud them for making the move from Gnome back when they did. It was a move in a new direction, and only now can we see that touch-screens and tablets were already being considered. As for if Ubuntu should suddenly disappear from the distro world?, well in all reality, just like Mint…Zorin…and most of those distros listed above, it would just be named something else…but it would continue on as before…maybe remove the branding, and eliminate some of the things included with “official” Ubuntu repos and packages, along with the Amazon-tie-in, and you would be able to continue to use “Ubuntu-That’s Not-Named-Ubuntu”…..because this is how Open Source and the “community” mindset works. I would have to agree that most of the people complaining about the Mir / Wayland issue are mostly the developers, I for one have no idea how to “work” either Mir OR Wayland…I just use Ubuntu for what I need it to be, a reliable OS that has very little problems. I think this is one of the things that causes a lot of people to avoid Linux on the whole, we’re like….the kids on the playground that are so busy arguing over who’s turn it was, who stepped on the “out” line…or who was on which team, that the sun is setting and NO ONE gets to play, because after a while some of the players walk off and go home…leaving one side or the other shorthanded, and leaving those who WANTED to play feeling jilted. I guess when we can get past issues such as this, then FLOSS will TRULY be a force to be reckoned with! LOL!
The problem with untiy is its lack of customization. Specifically, the way unity is setup is almost exactly like i set up xfce, gnome 2 or (now) mate, with two panels, one on the top and one on the left. I always set up my icons on the left and my main menu and time and date, and system tray on the top… where we differ is that I insist on a desktop switcher on the top of the screen and I insist on 7 desktops. I will not compromise on this point, not ever. Until unity allows me to place the desktop switcher across the top of the screen so i can switch between desktops with a single mouse click I will never use it. Also there is an issue for me about who controls the desktop, me or the computer. Specifically the issue is with so called urgent notifications from the system ‘needing immediate attention’ that pop up on the screen and across desktops. There is no such thing as an emergent situation regarding any running program. I am not interested in having my concentration intruded upon nor do I care to own a computer thqat behaves like it has add and ran out of meds a month ago.
When both of these issues are addressed, I will return to ubuntu, possibly. But not before then.
Lastly, unity doesn’t allow me to set the panel size to suit my needs. This is also a deal breaker for me. I want it smaller, about size 20 would be nice…
These three issues need to be customized to suit my needs. Until they are I am just as happy to use xfce or mate to set up my desktop as I wish. Fake obtrusive flashiness doesn’t impress me. Getting my work done does.
I have also voiced these concerns with the ubuntu team.
Before someone starts pushing about forking Ubuntu I would like just to point that there is in the making a new Debian based distribution focused on the desktop and to common users, it shares many of the goals Ubuntu had before shifting more and more to Unity and touch interfaces.
It’s different from other Debian (wheezy, testing or sid) derived distributions, notably by the work on the building infrastructure and because it uses systemd by default.
It’s called Tanglu (www.tanglu.org) and is in the making for the last 7 months, in the project are involved some Debian, KDE and Kubuntu developers.
The project is open to the public but at the moment it’s not much widely publicized. IMHO, one of the reasons is because it uses mainly old-fashioned mailing lists and IRC for communicating it’s progress. The first release is getting closer but the team is small and one of the biggest slowdowns is the work on the installer.
I’m surprised that a similar project is so little known and that has not attracted more developers unhappy with the current Ubuntu way of things.
My feelings towards Ubuntu are somewhat similar to those I have for the church in my little South French village. Though I don’t have any religious faith, I’d badly miss the church if it wasn’t there anymore. I like being woken up in the morning by the bells tolling, I like hearing the choir before sunset, and there’s a general sense of peace when folks stream out after mass. I’m a die-hard Slackware user, but I’d definitely miss Ubuntu if it ceased to exist.
Linux needs a distro like Ubuntu for visibility and as an entry into Linux. Is Ubuntu perfect? No, but no distro is perfect. Many recent users migrated to Linux via Ubuntu. Some have stayed with Ubtuntu while others moved to other distros.
Ubuntu provides a valuable first Linux experience that allows the new users to grow with Linux. In my case I found other distros better fit my needs but I would have never discovered them without Ubuntu. I probably would not have ever used Linux.
I think a big problem with Ubuntu now is that people associate Ubuntu solely with Unity.
With other distributions like Debian and Fedora people make a choice over their desktop environment and the brand isn’t tainted.
Ubuntu and Unity appear to go hand in hand. Anyone can install XFCE, KDE, Gnome or LXDE within Ubuntu and it will work perfectly but there is this stigma at the moment where people think of Ubuntu and they think of Unity.
This is a good thing if you like Unity and it is clear that the Ubuntu team would prefer it if we all used Unity but there is choice and it doesn’t mean giving up Ubuntu.
I find Unity works great on my main laptop but on a netbook or older device it is XFCE all the way for me.
GNU/Linux, not Linux, people. All of the distributions you’re talking about here are also made with GNU. You wouldn’t have an operating system with only the kernel.
I don’t know that I would characterize Kubuntu, Lubuntu, etc. as “based on” Ubuntu. Kubuntu and the other flavors ARE Ubuntu. When you connect to the repositories to get software updates, you’re connecting to the Ubuntu repositories. What make Kubuntu different is its use of KDE and the KDE SC as opposed to Unity, same goes for its cousins, which use still other desktop environments.
The presence of Unity/Mir does not make Ubuntu Ubuntu; remember, Ubuntu has a server edition that ships with no desktop environment. That is unquestionably Ubuntu. The Unity-equipped version is just the default desktop flavor, and you can pick whatever flavor you want. They’re all Ubuntu.
It is certainly fair to call Mint “based on Ubuntu” though.
I have worked with several different distros in the last year, and I for one can say that Ubuntu Server is far easier to install initially than any other. I work with servers every day, some of which aren’t even released to the public yet. I have one server I am working on now that needs to ship to a customer for evaluation. They require CentOS 6.4, but that distro doesn’t support the system out of the box. I installed Ubuntu on it just fine, then used qemu/kvm to install CentOS to a second drive so that I could manually add the very common drivers needed.
I also understand why Canonical chose to go with Unity and Mir. Redhat owns vast majority of the work on Wayland and Gnome, and they tend to be far slower to adopt newer “need it now for systems today” approach. Sure, they will support tablets and cellphones…some day. Kind of like they are now ramping up their cloud and arm support. Remember, it was Ubuntu that did a lot of gound breaking there.
Most of the Distrobutions based on Ubuntu now could rebase on Debian without much distruption. In fact Mint duel bases currently using Debian and Ubuntu.
Ubuntu itself is based off Debian. If Debian ceases to exist then we have a disaster. Debian is a root node for so many Distrobutions its not funny. As long as the master root node stands anything base off a sub node will have some overhead but nothing impossible to overcome. Ubuntu is just a sub node of debian.
The void of Ubuntu disappearing would be filled very quickly by Mint and debian.
The three to worry about failing is Debian (yes the largest tree), Redhat and Slackware.
This is Ubuntu problem with Mir they are not as big or as important as they think they are.
You seem to forget convenientally that while many distros (and I use the terms loosely because adding a few icons, wallpapers, hardly make soemthing a new distro, more like a remix) come from Ubuntu, most of the hard work is done by Debian.
But mentionning Debian in this article wouldnt exactly be useful.
Oiahom is right on the money (but I didnt feel like just adding a ditto to his post).
@ Simon Steadman, I agree with you about the GNU/Linux moniker, but I was under the impression that we ALL knew about it and just did away with it for the sake of discussion. Its equivalent to someone speaking about a Chevrolet Corvette “Stingray” edition, if you’re going to repeat it in a discussion would you want to have to SAY “Chevrolet Corvette Stingray edition” EVERY time? Most if not all of the people who are seasoned users of GNU/Linux KNOW the GNU is there…only the uninitiated, the rookies, the Noobies would not know its there…..and once educated about Linux, I’m sure they too wouldn’t necessarily say it every single time…..just my two cents….
Ubuntu is a good base for other distros, and many like it for itself. I like the LTS. I tried Unity. It works and is not hard, but I want a traditional desktop. I find it better than the new Gnome, which is unusable in my opinion.
I think Ubuntu would be missed, but not as much as Debian, which Ubuntu uses. Many distros switch their base. Ubuntu not existing would cause some hard work at first, but Linux would surely survive.
Look closer Mint and Debian are becoming more and more popular. Unity where Ubuntu broke away at first has resulted in more software bugs in Ubuntu that were nowhere else broken. Why the debian upstream testing is against normal Windows Managers not Unity and its addons. This is going to repeat with Mir and Wayland.
The problem to remember Debian will have Wayland currently no Mir.
–Wayland versus MIR is surely an issue for software developers, not for people who use the software.–
This is so not true. Its a issue for end users because the quality of a program depends on the volume and quality of its testing. This is a sum of parts problem.
Most of the quality testing of software on Linux is not done by software developers but by package maintainers for different and major distrobutions. The major and key software maintainers groups doing the testing are Debian, Redhat and Slackware. Zero of these are going Mir. This is where trouble starts.
Yes Mir could be Ubuntu death sentence. http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/28032.html
The scarly reality is really Ubuntu does not have the man power alone to pull of Mir or even long term maintain it. They have well and truly underestemated the size of the problem. The fact intel has reject Mir patches from mainline now means Ubuntu will have to update those patches alone.
Mainline support is critical out side mainline you have many times the ammount of work syncing and updating.
Like really 1 X11 developer has to maintain all of Xmir with all the complex issues running X11 applications can kick up. Xwayland has quite a large team and support from the main X11 project that it will get mainline so broken less often by X11 alterations.
I will be highly supprised if Ubuntu pulls off Mir. The level Mir is under resourced means you are hoping that Ubuntu developers are impressively good. kubuntu and other are talking going wayland this is extreamly sane.
Well if we want to go that route then lets consider that a rolling distro is a better option in the long run than not. Rolling out a new iso is fine to encourage new users but requiring it is another story. Yes i know there is an update process available for ubuntu and it’s derivatives…
LMDE is/was my first choice and SolydXK is my standard now. Those folks work and refine the way LMDE used to… Mint has become lost in ubuntu and is backing off of keeping up with LMDE. Cinnamon is a lot of work in and of itself. I don’t code so I can only guess though really.
Yes I know I could do xubuntu but the work SolydXK does is so much better where I need it most. The wheel can only be reinvented so many times. All of these distros are little more than just spokes and rubber on the debian wheel but the ride does matter…
PS. Shout out for arch and variants as well… Linux could survive on that alone. In fact it might prove well if all the softawre engineers focused on just one of the big four.
consider that for a lot of people, the choices might be the problem that perplexes them… aka
It’s obvious that Ubuntu is not being treated like a community Distro — to actually return control it should be forked.
–It’s obvious that Ubuntu is not being treated like a community Distro — to actually return control it should be forked.–
Why fork. Merge the best techs from Ubuntu back upstream into Debian. This is how you kill off something that forked from something already community.
Yes it would be a disaster. Ubuntu may try to be diffferent, but this kind of exploration leads to innovation and is what make Linux as a whole an agile beast, rather than a tightly constrained. It is the only free desktop Linux OS that is exactly the same as its enterprise cousin. The only one with Long Term Support in its free version. Ubuntu may try radically unconventional approaches as its default, but it retains the conventional options as well. It provides a basis for development of more variants than any other distro, even though it is itself a variant of Debian. Its differences should be lauded for maintaining diversity and exploring ideas, not criticized because it does not blindly copy the existing conventions.
It would be a loss for beginners, – assumed Ubuntu would cease to exist – , who would have to seek for a different distro to start with. The beginners are still the hugest percentage of all Linux-Users ! From this view Ubuntu is really no evil !
People are naturally resistant to change, and for good reason: they’ve developed methods of operation that work well for them, and so the gamble is always to lose productivity.
I really do commend Canonical though: I know Android is built on a Linux kernel – which, in its multitasking glory already outperforms iOS – but to make Linux properly mobile, in an increasingly touch-screen marketplace, is visionary.
Will people catch up? Well, I don’t know. But the beauty is there’re other flavours of Linux for them that wants it, and Canonical can only attract a whole heap of interest by going mobile.
As for Ubuntu, I’m sure it’ll continue to evolve. And perhaps all the controversies are the grit that makes the pearl.
The issue that concerns non-programmers is whether the software they want to use will actually work with Mir as everyone else seems to be rooting for Wayland. If work needs to be done does canonical expect the various devs to do this?
I am not a developer – I would be happy for someone more knowledgeable to enlighten me on this issue.
The problem with ubuntu today is its association with the widely hated and despised unity. A tough to impossible one to shake off. Will it be missed? only to those who use it other than this no.
I really don’t understand why some people get their knickers in a twist about Unity: it works well, and it looks good. And as is endlessly pointed out, other varieties of Linux are available. Free : Choice.
Canonical is certainly not a good example of a functioning “need it now for systems today”, they make big announcements, make some demo working code but at the end have to make a reality check and take some steps back.
It seems Wayland is not behind Mir on mobile devices. There are videos showing a preview of Mir on a smartphone and videos showing Wayland on a smartphone, too (Jolla).
@ Gary Newell
“Anyone can install XFCE, KDE, Gnome or LXDE within Ubuntu and it will work perfectly but there is this stigma at the moment where people think of Ubuntu and they think of Unity.”
This is true but do we have any assurance that components on which other spins rely will work on future Ubuntu releases? Canonical is fully focused on Unity and Mir has it’s own goals. We have seen multiple times that they are able to abruptly change direction. Could some ubuntu specific patches to the base system suddenly create problems to external components and leave developers of other spins on their own? We know Canonical is very fast when finding a solution to their own short term practical concerns.
Otherwise, the incompatibility could also be introduced as Canonical pursuing some long term “secret” plans. Who knows! As it’s not a community based distro, the decision makers are somewhere else.
I don’t want to spread FUD but it looks that a challenging period is coming for derivatives. Who is going to put the puzzle together in 2014, package properly X, Wayland and other components next to Mir? How many bugs will arise only because of the Ubuntu base that has diverged from other distributions? I hope to see it going slick.
“Why fork. Merge the best techs from Ubuntu back upstream into Debian.”
Unfortunately, this is possible only partially for many reasons. Debian is not focused primary to the desktop, it’s also targeting many other architectures and not only the linux kernel, the stability is of crucial importance. Also, don’t forget the months long repo freeze when the team targets stability and new packages are non accepted anymore.
This is why the Tanglu desktop project, that I mentioned before, smartly fits in the middle with shorter freezes and 6 months release cycles.
The loss of Ubuntu would be devastating to the Linux newbies. And in that, it would be devastating to the future growth of desktop Linux. What Ubuntu “is” is more than just a distribution. It is the installer, it is the amazingly easy major release upgrade, it is the discussion forums, it is the public relations/hype machine that Shuttleworth provides (sad but true that marketing is important, see: Apple). It is so much more than the .iso that comes out every 6 months. Would someone “try” to take their place if Ubuntu got scrapped? Of course someone would “try”. Would they succeed the way Ubuntu has? Nobody else in Linux world ever has before Ubuntu…
Frankly, the complaints of Unity are just noise. I really love the fact that Unity is out there, but I don’t use it. Simply put, the more choices the better.
My wife loves Unity. The only reason I don’t use it is mentioned above, customization. My wife used it on a 14 inch laptop, and in that situation it is fine for her and for most users. It is simple, elegant, and very easy to use… especially for those GUI-only users (read: 95% of all computer users).
My previous primary computer (still) runs Xubuntu. It has for many years. It is a very traditional desktop PC, and the a traditional desktop was my preference over Unity with nice big screens, real mice, etc etc.
My primary computer these days uses a 42″ TV for display, and I sit about 8 feet away from it. I need greater customization than I could manage from Unity to make this work. It happens to run Mint (which honestly I still consider to be Ubuntu, but props to everyone involved with Mint for all they do, Cinnamon and Nemo are fantastic).
If I were a laptop user, I would probably use Unity on both of those machines. Even though I do plenty of more advanced linux-geekery on my machines, Unity is quite good.
And the computer world is changing massively to touch based/integrated hardware (tablets). Mir “might” turn out to work better than Wayland (it really might, or it might not, who knows yet). It just may become the standard display server for all of linux world down the line… no one really can say yet. Will all those needlessly complaining right now go out and make loud and public apologies for their current and pointless noise they are making now while neither is usable?
If Ubuntu ceased to exist, people would build Deb packages for Debian. That would be refreshing.
Unity is the only DE I’m happy with.
I’ve tried Unity and Gnome 3 on several users new to Linux, and they reacted even more negatively than the experienced users. The new Linux users were hoping for something better than Metro, but the Linux touch UIs only annoyed them. Installing classic shell on Win7 made them happiest. So much for Linux.
As for me, I’m sticking with Ubuntu 10.04 on my production machines, because I need to be productive. I’m also experimenting with Mint/Mate and Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome 3, Cinnamon, Mate, and Unity in VMs. Mint/Mate is looking like the winner, but it’s not as perfect yet as Lynx.
I keep seeing people comment on what they think is wrong with Unity or Gnome 3, but they all seem to me to miss the real point. Customization will come. Productivity will not. The UI designers seem to think we use their UIs as our productivity tools. I don’t know anyone who does such a thing. I use various text editors, terminals, and VMs (for Windows XP & 7).
The last thing I’m going to do is keep an area of my desktop free for meters, widgets, ‘charms’ (get serious, please), or whatever such toys are called this week. That’s what the panel is for.
The next thing I’m never going to do is touch my screen, so why all the touch elements? Why all the icons without labels? Why not labels without icons? Have we grows so complicite with branding mania? Has everyone forgotten that the only reason for a touch interface is a kludge imposed by the device’s form factor? Why would anyone want a compromise on a desktop with a real keyboard and a decent screen? Because having the same UI as the phone is cool?! Are the lights on in there?
I used to have users opting for Ubuntu instead of Windows. Now they only want Windows with classic shell. How fortunate the Linux community is that M$ has made the same fatal error. Unfortunately, Linux followed them down the rabbit hole. The only hope is for Mint and Mate to get better in a hurry. Otherwise, there’ll be no viable reason to have a PC anymore.
Think I’m nuts? Have you noticed Gnome adding touch elements to gedit? Think about that for a minute.
I’ve noticed a lot of these comments begin with “The problem with Unity…” as if there’s something WRONG with it? Better to say “the reason I find Unity un-useable…” and them make your case. I think a lot of people are forgetting this is open source and while there’s all reason to expect developers to pander to the masses, there’s also the reality of not all developers are going to do things to make the people happy, (and now this is where that “Too Many Distros” thing comes into play!..LOL!) in which case a person is free to move onto another distro that DOES suit them….but to make statements that there’s something wrong with Unity, all because you cannot find a way to be productive while using it is a bit of a “whining child” reflex. I use Ubuntu with Unity…and Fedora with Gnome 3 (LOVE that stuff!..LOL!) and while it’s not for everyone, I find that I can be productive and enjoy the entire experience the whole time, I remember when I was living in the “walled garden” of Windows, I used to complain about a lot of things regarding Windows…that never was addressed, because in the M$ world it was about making money, not pleasing the masses, at least these developers TRY to meet halfway…(SOMETIMES!) and maybe they don’t always hit the mark…but their heart is in the right place, mean while they’re “attacked” by people using their wares and called “ignorant”….”stubborn”….etc. All because they might not have the wherewithal to perform and change every request that is posted to the mailing lists, or forums regarding their project.
The problem with pseudo-intellectuals trying to critique the critiques of others is that they are off topic, jibbing narcissits who are abusive and overcontrolling at their core and can’t tolerate an opinion that doesn’t agree with their own and thus start attacking the way people express themselves as though that would make them look intelligent or their then flimsy and brief opinion that might possess a modicum of revelance to the topic at hand as being somehow superior because of their condescension towards others. In other words, faux elitism has the maximum effective range of 0.0 meters Private Pyle.
Linux expanded at a faster rate before Ubuntu. That is a fact. Though the actual numbers are larger after Ubuntu came on the scene, it’s actual adoption rate slowed. There were distros that sat at the top of the Linux heap before Ubuntu. Mandrake was the most popular for years until they shot themselves in the foot and rant hair user base off, much like Ubuntu is currenly doing. Linux survived then and it will survive after Ubuntu is long gone.
Their needs to be a family of user friendly distros that are both easy for newcomers to transition to and are powerful enough to be usable. Whether it was Mandriva or is Ubuntu or some other distro in the future is unimportant. Just that there needs to be one.
I have a fondness for Ubuntu (Maverick) because it was the first distro I used and overall it impressed me.
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