Is Ubuntu in My Future?

I am not an Ubuntu user. After some honest thinking, I cannot offer a robust reason why.

Some reflection eventually bubbled out some conversational reasons.

I am not good at following crowds. While I am good at doing as the Romans do when I am in Rome, my personality urges me to leave Rome as soon as practical. That I have been using Slackware to one degree or another for almost 15 years indicates my tendency to conform less than expected. Since Ubuntu represents status quo in the eyes of many, that likely is one reason I never got warm and fuzzy about Ubuntu.

Interestingly, as a side note, that same thinking does not apply to Windows. I just do not like the design of Windows, even back in the more benign days.

While I am a proponent of creating a user experience that targets non technical users, I do not promote such a design at the expense of technical users. I believe defaults should favor non technical users, but technical users should be able to tweak and customize to their heart’s content. Do not remove features. Just do not enable all advanced features as defaults. I do not like limited or restricted desktops. Hence, I never gave Unity a moment of my time.

I have had mixed feelings about convergence. I think in the end developers will figure out ways to support mobile devices and desktops with the same core GUI. That moment has not yet arrived. I am old school. I prefer the traditional desktop metaphor for my work flow on a computer desktop. Thus I never grew warm and fuzzy about Unity or Ubuntu.

I have little patience for the routine breakage that occurs in rapid release cycles. Ubuntu is released on a six month cycle, ready or not and usually not. Only the Long Term Support (LTS) versions seem to avoid the pain of rapid release. Possibly this reputation no longer holds, but tough to erase those impressions from Ubuntu early years.

Stability. For many years Ubuntu had a reputation of being unstable. Partly due to rapid release, partly due to shaky quality control. I do not know whether that reputation remains valid.

Performance. I tried an Ubuntu distro now and then. They always were horribly sluggish. Perhaps that is changed that past few years. Again, first impressions die hard. Yet the general development focus is not on aging hardware but reasonably new hardware. Unity, like a few other desktops, expects 3D acceleration. I am not a person to discard aging computers just because I want shiny. Shiny never has been a priority for me. That is just me — I want to help other people move to Linux based systems. I live in a rural area. People in rural environments and cultures do not buy new hardware every couple of years. I need to use distros that support aging hardware. Ubuntu design never seemed molded for that kind of need or use case.

I never cared for the animal code names for each release. Shrug. Perhaps when they finally reach the letter Z they will end that practice. Yeah, I am boring.

Canonical is a business. One way or another the owners and principal players want to see a profit. In this day and age of software commercialization, that means monetizing users. That likely means data mining in one form or another. I am speculating at this stage. In time we’ll see how the story unfolds.

I think the Canonical folks spend too much time reinventing the wheel. Yes, I am a non conformist too so I do not get too perturbed by this. Yet perhaps, and I can only speculate, time and energy would be better spent influencing existing projects. The money is there, for sure.

That said, being a business-backed commodity has some benefits. Profits will not happen any time soon as long as the geeks control Linux design and desktops. This is one of the common threads in my blog. I sense the Canonical folks realize that too. Possibly down the road Ubuntu will be just as common as Windows and OS X, but only after developers focus on user needs rather than geek creds. Unlike the general nature of free/libre software, when developers are on a payroll they can be told what to do and what to produce.

While I seldom have tinkered with Ubuntu distros, I have changed that behavior by installing Xubuntu. The Red Hat folks have the potential to influence the non enterprise market for operating systems. They choose not to, instead catering to the enterprise and the geeks. Likewise with the Suse folks. That leaves the Canonical folks to make a difference outside the enterprise.

Using an Ubuntu distro does not mean using Unity. There are choices. The next LTS is around the corner. No Upstart.

Part of the reason I am contemplating this at all is, non conformist or not, I am weary of swimming against the tide. I want to use and support a system that non technical users will enjoy and has dependable upstream support. Distros controlled by the geeks do not qualify. They never have. With such distros, geek creds are more important that usability from a non technical user’s perspective. Second, jumping on the bandwagon means improved familiarity, which means opportunities for employment.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Ubuntu

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