Unity? (was: What's your favorite distro, and why?)

Levi Pearson levipearson at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 11:44:49 MST 2013

On Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM, Richard Esplin
<richard-lists at esplins.org> wrote:
> I agree with your analysis, but I don't think your tone does justice to the
> frustration with Ubuntu. It's the mismatch in expectations between those who
> wanted to use Ubuntu Linux, and Canonical's wish to have their own OS built on
> a Linux base.

I get your frustration.  I am a bit frustrated with Ubuntu right now,
too.  But being frustrated with Canonical for wanting something
different than I do is no reason to make completely nonsensical
assertions about the morality of what they are doing.  Why should
Canonical care what I want?  I haven't paid them any money.  They
don't owe me anything.  My desires and opinions are not representative
of the user base Ubuntu is aiming at, either, so it would be rather
selfish (not to mention foolish) of me to assert that they ought to
pay special attention to my desires and opinions.

And furthermore, the difference between 'Ubuntu Linux' and 'An OS
built on a Linux base' is one that you've manufactured in your head to
justify your frustration.  The phrases--to anyone who hasn't
manufactured a similar complaint in their head, anyway--mean exactly
the same thing.  Distributions have always differentiated themselves
in some way or another, whether it be via custom software or packaging
policies.  The goal has always been, for all of them, to be 'an OS
built on a Linux base' that meets some need better or at least
differently from all the other 'OS built on a Linux base' projects out
there.  Ubuntu is hardly unique or even particularly esoteric in its
divergence from the current norm.

> Most adopters of Ubuntu who hang out on Linux lists were looking for a
> convenient and polished Linux desktop environment, not a desktop environment
> _based_ on Linux. It makes me nervous to see Ubuntu diverge from the rest of
> the Linux desktop community because it means that staying on Ubuntu will limit
> my customization options. Further, Ubuntu is big enough that the resulting
> fragmentation is likely to hinder the future of Linux desktop environments for
> the rest of the community.

Again, there is no such thing as a standard 'Linux desktop
environment'.  All Linux desktop environments are what you call 'a
desktop environment _based_ on Linux'.  And there hasn't been any
consensus on what 'a desktop environment _based_ on Linux' should be
since people got the idea that such a thing should exist.
Furthermore, I fail to see how Ubuntu's changes are somehow
restricting your ability to customize your desktop experience.  I can
currently switch, on the fly, between Unity, Gnome 3, and a minimal
xmonad-based environment on this Ubuntu machine.  The arrival of a new
default graphics server at some point won't change that at all.  You
can even download a semi-official 'Ubuntu remix edition' and get
Gnome, KDE, LXDE, or a couple of other things as the default desktop
environment.  You can get live-CD distributions based on Ubuntu that
turn your computer in to a CNC machine controller or a media center;
likewise, you can add the functionality of either of these packages
via standard package installs (though you have to swap kernels to get
LinuxCNC working wel).  Clearly, the ability to customize things is
not lacking.

> I agree that it is Canonical's right to make such a transition, but I find it
> unfortunate.
> After spending years as a happy Ubuntu user, such concerns recently led me to
> switch from Ubuntu to Linux Mint Debian Edition, to Debian, and finally to
> Fedora. I still have my family using Ubuntu and my servers are still Debian.
> Fedora has been okay, but I have to admit that Ubuntu is far more polished.
> But I couldn't handle doing things strictly the Ubuntu way. If I was willing
> to trade flexibility for polish, I would be using a Mac.

What is the 'Ubuntu way' that you were being forced to follow with
your Ubuntu install?  I mostly let Ubuntu do its thing, because most
of my real work is not impacted heavily by desktop bells and whistles,
but I haven't found it particularly difficult to get any
customizations I've needed installed and working.  The compiler and
apt-get still work like they always have.

My frustration with Ubuntu is largely due to a perceived lack of
polish in recent releases, leading to things breaking in small ways
after upgrades. These haven't been terrible, for the most part, but
annoying.  And I don't have solid evidence that things are actually
worse; it just seems that way to me.  Due to this vague
dissatisfaction, I tried Arch out on a new laptop.  It's been fine,
but it suffers from the occasional breakage on upgrades as well, and
in addition it was a total pain in the ass to get set up in the first
place.  So, I am not quite as down on Ubuntu as I was before.  Keeping
the vast number of packages distributed by Ubuntu working smoothly
through the upgrade process is a REALLY HARD PROBLEM, and things are
just going to break sometimes.  Alas, that's the price of flexibility;
not all configurations can be equally tested and polished.


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